Snatch (review)

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Crime, and a Bit with a Dog

Felonious mayhem can make for an intoxicating film, if approached with the right attitude — an offhand disregard for the gravity of, oh, murder or armed robbery, goes a long way in the safe confines of fiction. And when all your characters are amusing low-lifes and charming scum, as Guy Ritchie’s tend to be, the fun for the audience comes not in rooting for those you want to see survive but for those you can’t wait to see bumped off… and finding that you’re actually a little sorry to see some of them go.

Promising but a little unsteady on his feet with his first film, Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, writer/director Ritchie has graduated, with Snatch, to full-fledged cool-ass dude and filmmaker to watch out for. Fresh and funky, Snatch proves that a background in music videos and commercials, like Ritchie’s, doesn’t have to be the force for evil it usually is. The flash, the dizzying cuts, the fooling around with film-time to comedic effect, the raucous action… there are clearly conceived rationales for it all — it’s all there to make a delightfully unpredictable story even more exhilarating, not to disguise a warmed-over retread of a crime caper.

Plot is everything here, and nothing. There’s a diamond heist and a stickup of a bookie’s; unlicensed boxing matches and quite possibly the most gruesome way ever to dispose of troublesome corpses; globetrotting criminals and the quickest transatlantic trip known to mankind; disreputable gypsies and the dogs they throw into every shady deal. Wandering in and out is a stew of inglorious characters seemingly pumped from the sewers of London’s East End: boxing promoter Turkish (Jason Statham), jewel thief Franky Four Fingers (Benicio Del Toro: Traffic, The Pledge), enforcers Boris the Blade (Rade Serbedzija: Space Cowboys, Mission: Impossible 2) and Bullet Tooth Tony (Vinnie Jones: Gone in 60 Seconds), and bare-knuckle fighter One Punch Mickey O’Neil (Brad Pitt: Fight Club, Meet Joe Black), a gypsy with a hilariously unintelligible pseudo-Irish accent. They’re the cream of the London underworld, but henchmen are always idiots and the brains of an operation usually isn’t much better.

What an ear for names Ritchie has… and what a talent for weaving together the many strands of a complicated tale and bringing them together in so satisfying and diverting a manner. Snatch is, at the risk of sounding pompous, positively Shakespearean, with its chance meetings, fatal Achilles heels, revenge served cold, and inconvenient and accidental bullets to the head. If the Bard were alive today and trying to be Quentin Tarantino, he’d come up with something like Snatch. It’s a play full of fools, of course, and its sound and fury signifies nothing more than mischievous cleverness, but, man, what a ride.

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