Directed By Guy Ritchie
By: Eric G.
Guy Ritchie's second film, Snatch, jolts across the screen so fast it's hard to make heads or tails of it. That could be a ploy to secure repeat viewings, but it's more likely a sign that Mr. Madonna is out to grab some attention. It's no surprise to find out that Ritchie made his name directing music videos. His flash editing style zips through scenes with a cartoonish bag of tricks that MTV has probably registered by now. Like his debut, Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch is a flippant crime caper set in the dregs of England's societal echelons. This time, however, Ritchie ups the comic book factor, heightens the double-crossing, and sharpens the wit.
Critics are dogging Snatch for its lack of character development. What a waste of time. The characters in Snatch aren't exactly complex. They're thugs with descriptive names, and their voice-over introductions more than suffice for 'character development.' Who wants to sit through a slew of superfluous establishing shots of a guy like Brick Top? As soon as Alan Ford's face hits the screen, we know Brick Top is a mean son of a bitch who would just as soon kill you as look at you. And Benicio Del Toro's Franky Four Fingers is thusly named because he has a gambling problem. Why Franky Four Fingers has a gambling problem is no concern of mine. I'm here for the action and the laughs and Ritchie doth provide them both.
Our narrator and his sidekick, Turkish and Tommy, are hapless thugs, who find themselves mixed up in Brick Top's illegal, underground boxing ring. The sub-plot surrounds the theft of a diamond the size of a fist, and, of course, all of Ritchie's cockney gangsters want it. The ensuing hijinks showcase Ritchie's knack for comedy of the absurd. There's a whiff of Tarantino in some of his tricks like the uncanny, coincidental interweaving of characters, but Ritchie seems to be making a name for himself with that showy editing style and his ridiculous caricatures of the English criminal underground.
Speaking of ridiculous caricatures, Brad Pitt steals the show with his interpretation of an Irish gypsy whom Turkish and Tommy have hired to take a fall in the ring with one of Brick Top's thugs. Pitt's incoherent accent almost caused Ritchie to subtitle his lines, but it's far funnier having no idea what he's saying. I can't imagine how anyone kept a straight face in a scene with Pitt. His expressions alone steal every scene he's in. Pitt's comic side should come as no surprise, though, to anyone who remembers his role in True Romance, where he played Michael Rapaport's mind-blown stoner roommate with dead-on precision.
Ritchie's directing style certainly overwhelms his storytelling ability. The plot really isn't the reason to see this film, though. Ritchie somehow makes the plot secondary to the way the characters play off one another. Snatch is a fluff comedy, and its gratuitous violence and seediness make it a guilty pleasure. Ritchie's writing is nowhere near as meticulous or idiosyncratic as, say, Quentin Tarantino's is, but he's got an ear for comedy. If he could raise the level of his storytelling to that of his dizzying directing style, his name would be recognizable as a director first and as Madonna's husband second.