review by Gregory Avery, 19 January 2001

Snatch, the new film by British director Guy Ritchie, which he wrote and directed, is an escalating comedy of mayhem involving a large stolen gem and what happens as it is passed through the hands of a whole series of shady characters, ranging from would-be petty crooks to medium-sized aspiring crooks, crime bosses in both London and New York City, at least one hitman, and a dog. The ensuing roundelay is punctuated by some colorful dialogue ("Who took the jam out of your donut?" complains one guy in regards to another's bad attitude), some baroque profanities, and wince-inducing stagings of mayhem.

Ritchie mixes in some established stars alongside some relatively unfamiliar ones, for an all-in-the-gang feeling: Dennis Farina plays the New York crime boss who literally travels in a flash over to London upon the first sign of serious trouble (he also gets to deliver a terrific exit line); Benicio Del Toro appears as a courier with a gambling habit and what sounds like a Hungarian accent; Rade Sherbedgia plays a London crook with KGB training who, literally, won't stay down; and Brad Pitt appears as an Irish Gypsy with lots of tattoos, an ability to knock out guys with one single blow, and bursts of speech so indecipherable that even the other characters on-screen complain that they can't make anything out of it.

Ritchie's earlier, debut film, the 1998 Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, was both hugely successful and sparked a title wave of U.K. gangster pictures. It was also a knockoff of Reservoir Dogs, which was itself a knockoff of every gang-with-a-plan thriller you could think of. The difference is that Quentin Tarantino made his picture with genuine wit, creativity (in the ways he recombined material from all sorts of places), and enthusiasm. Ritchie's two films are a bit more aloof, and the borrowings feel like they're of a second, or even third, generation quality: you may recognize the opening scene where the action is followed on a succession of security monitors and end up finding yourself more concerned with wondering where you have seen it before (and whether it was probably done better in the other film you saw it in) than with what's going on with the screen characters in front of you.

The film wants to induce the same kind of giddiness one would get from an amusement-park ride, but there's no feeling for the characters except for those who make some immediate connections. Alan Ford, who plays a powerful London mobster in the film who's referred to as Brick Top, brings such a palpable sense of tightly-wound anger and barely suppressed aggression to every scene he's in that you don't wonder if the mere mention of his name would turn men's blood into ice. (He also has a great scene where he tutors some guys on the best way to go about disposing of a human body -- borrowed, I may add, from an actual case which took place in the British countryside during the 1980s.) And Vinnie Jones, a former professional soccer player who appeared in Lock, Stock... as the guy who wielded a shotgun in one hand while taking care of his young son with the other, plays a dapper gunman who can sit down, rivet people with his gaze, and speak very softly yet make his meaning and intentions perfectly well understood.

Otherwise, the film identifies upfront who everyone is and what their relation is to everyone else, and then merrily plows right into the story with gay abandon. You get the feeling that it doesn't matter whether you know whom you're looking at during any particular moment, because the film certainly doesn't seem to care.

What is Guy Ritchie aiming at? The film certainly can't compare with Mike Hodges' 1971 Get Carter, which I just happened to have a look at for the first time recently, an incredibly bleak but incredibly haunting look at British gangsters which shares with this film many of the same types of characters along with an "out with the old boss, in with the new boss" type of storyline. In Hodges' film, there was menace but not a whole lot of gunfire, because everyone in the film knew that each and every gunshot meant something. Although Snatch makes a reference to "for every cause, there's an effect," a lot of guns are fired but it doesn't seem to make any difference who's on the receiving end. While I don't expect pictures like Snatch to come with an existential message, the way it works does weigh you down after a while. In that way, it's emblematic of the increasing age of isolationism we are living in, where empathy has been replaced by indifference, and other people register only as images of an outside world.

Click here to read Cynthia Fuchs' interview.

Written and
Directed by:

Guy Ritchie

Jason Statham
Stephen Graham
Dennis Farina
Rade Sherbedgia
Benicio Del Toro
Lennie James
Alan Ford
Brad Pitt
Jason Flemyng
Vinnie Jones

R - Restricted
Under 17 requires
parent or adult





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