Guy Ritchie, USA, 2000)


For some odd reason, current release titles in 2000 were full of what the TV classifiers refer to as 'sexual references' and innuendos: Better Than Sex, Shaft, Snatch … Some even feared that this last title would be so alarming to American audiences that it might need to be renamed Snatched.


They need not have worried. Snatch has even less to do with sex than Shaft – and it is even more male-oriented. Guy Ritchie's much anticipated follow-up to Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) is loud, jazzy, but unadventurous. Ritchie seems so keen to repeat his previous success down to the last detail that he neglects to try anything new.


Where Lock, Stock had a defiantly local flavour that enhanced its rough, British charm, the more handsomely resourced Snatch mixes up nationalities and locations – making room, for instance, for Dennis Farina as Avi, a hard-drinking criminal who zips from New York to London whenever necessary.


Essentially, though, Snatch replays Lock, Stock's portrait gallery of low-life criminal types: variously inept, brutal, honourable, hyper-confident, drawling, scamming and frightened. The plot is again a busy assortment of different lines of action – set in motion by a snatched diamond – that collide, complicate or cancel each other out in ingeniously orchestrated ways.


In his first film, Ritchie made the most of the physiques and mannerisms of his cast, and threw in Scorsese-style tricks such as sudden freeze frames, voice-over and an inspired selection of oddball musical tracks. All of this is taken to excess in Snatch. Much of the film seems taken up with show-off shots in which the camera rotates around a group of multicultural performers making exaggeratedly grotesque gestures while sound effects or music scream out their effects of ironic incongruity.


The gang of guys in this movie cavort like sadistic teenagers, as Ritchie revels in a flippant spectacle of grisly violence that is more fantastic than shocking. Snatch uses the Tarantino technique for menacing the characters – poor fools who have been caught or bumbled into the wrong place at the wrong time – and the audience, by forever flagging the possibility that someone is about to be horribly disembowelled or fed to eager pigs.


Ultimately, however, Ritchie seems more intent on emulating the Ealing crime comedies of the '50s than the apocalyptic gangland scenarios of Reservoir Dogs (1992) or Goodfellas (1990). And ultimately, despite all its repetitive and derivative games, Snatch builds in momentum and humour. It's not an especially good film, but its animal energy is hard to resist.


Ritchie has two ace cards up his sleeve – his truly surprising and inventive way with plot moves (there seems to be a major development every ten minutes), and his splendid cast. It's the kind of movie where everyone has a crazy name: tall Vinnie Jones from Lock, Stock is Bullet Tooth Tony; Benicio Del Toro gets far too little screen time as the flakey Franky Four Fingers; Rade Sherbedgia (from Space Cowboys, 2000) growls menacingly as Boris the Blade.


The cartoonish, devil-may-care aspect of Snatch is best summed up by Brad Pitt's outlandish turn as Mickey – a boxer with an incomprehensible accent and a covert but furious code of loyalty and righteousness.

© Adrian Martin November 2000

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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