One of the most successful British film of 1998 was
LOCK, STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS, a razzmatazz mixture
of modern-day gangsters, guns, drug dealers, crosses and double-crosses
that also combined wit and humor with mayhem. At the helm was Guy
Ritchie, a scion of wealth who cultivated the airs of a working-class bloke.
Ritchie who both wrote and directed Lock, Stock exhibited a flair for
stylish movie making that unfortunately didn't quite translate at the
American box-office when the film was released in March 1999. (Part
of the problem allegedly was the thick Cockney accents and slang
that was unfamiliar to those on this side of the pond.) In my
estimation, LOCK, STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS ranked as
one of the best films of 1999 and heralded the arrival of an inventive
and original voice. So I approached Ritchie's follow-up SNATCH with
high hopes. Of course, by the time his second feature was released,
Ritchie's profile in the USA had been raised more for his association
with Madonna than for his talent. Their on-again, off-again relationship
was chronicled in the tabloids as was the subsequent birth of their
son Rocco and later, their wedding in Scotland. If no one was aware
of Ritchie when his first film opened, certainly by the time of the
release of SNATCH, many more people would know his name at least.
If an audience heads to Snatch expecting to see new ground
broken by the writer-director, well, they will be disappointed. Ritchie
has taken the elements that made his previous effort so much fun
and recycled them into another gangster story, this time cast with a
few more recognizable faces to American audiences. Similarly, SNATCH
weaves together several disparate story lines, in this case, primarily
a "fixed" boxing match, the heist of a flawless 86-carat diamond, and
a band of roving Irish gypsies. Ritchie utilizes his now patented
approach of freeze frames, sped up action, jokey slang and oddball
names (i.e., Boris the Blade, Franky Four Fingers, Turkish, Doug
the Head, etc.). Once again the writer-director also employs a very
cheeky sense of humor that is at odds with the violent men (Ritchie's
universe is peopled almost entirely by men), portrayed.
While the members of the large cast (which includes established
actors and non-professionals) acquit themselves fairly well, there are
a few standouts. Brad Pitt continues to appear on screen in roles
that downplay his golden boy looks, here portraying a fast-talking
Irish "traveller" who happens to be a bare-knuckle fighting champ.
Pitt is quite good, bringing a saucy demeanor to the part, even
when half his dialogue is completely incomprehensible. Jason
Statham is fine in what is more or less the leading role (his
character narrates part of the film), a low-level hustler with
aspirations of playing in the big leagues. Benicio Del Toro
dominates his scenes as a hood and Dennis Farina is quite funny
as an American-based gangster who wants to own the multi-carat
diamond. Former soccer star Vinnie Jones demonstrates a winning
charisma as a hit man while Alan Ford nearly steals the film as a
sadistic crime boss.
Obviously Ritchie and his producers decided on the old "if it
ain't broke, don't fix it" theme when they decided to make SNATCH,
since it has the same flavor and style of his debut. While I am slightly
disappointed that this obviously talented filmmaker hasn't decided
to stretch his talents, I can appreciate what he has accomplished.
SNATCH zips along at a fast pace and there are numerous laughs
to be had mixed in with the mostly off-screen violence. The hellzapoppin'
camera work of Tim Maurice-Jones and the excellent editing of
Jon Harris require special mention as well; without their contributions,
the film would not succeed as well as it does.
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, language
and some nudity
Running time: 102 mins.
|© 2005 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.