A jewelry heist that doesn’t go as planned, a proud boxer that is supposed to go down but won’t, a mean and ruthless underworld boss – sound familiar? No, it’s not “Pulp Fiction” or even “Reservoir Dogs,” but British writer/director Guy Ritchie’s latest film “Snatch.”
Ritchie’s debut feature “Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels” managed to be a big word-of-mouth indie hit with its ingenuous tale of double-crossing mobsters, dealers and crooked Londoners. With an even more kinetic pace and its seemingly endless plot twists and reversals, “Snatch” is basically a faster, more gimmicky and silly version of its predecessor.
Ritchie seems determined to make the film, essentially a comedy of errors, entertaining and surprising at every turn. He assumes that his audience will become dreadfully bored if he doesn’t throw in a gunfight, a car crash or a humorous insult every couple of minutes. And that is precisely the problem with “Snatch” – it is showmanship overkill, where normally intriguing plot twists pile up senselessly on each other like some highway catastrophe to the point that it’s hard to make anything out of the mayhem. This superficial, hopeful audience-pleasing ultimately makes “Snatch” a cheap and unsatisfying film.
If there is a main character in the film, it is Turkish (Jason Statham), the film’s narrator and an underground boxing promoter who is trying to hit the big time by arranging a fixed fight with the brutal promoter Brick Top (Alan Ford). When Turkish’s fighter gets knocked out by a mumbling Irish gypsy named Mickey (Brad Pitt), Turkish gets him to stand in for a fixed fight. But pride fucks with Mickey and he doesn’t go down as planned, setting up a second fight which could put his and Turkish’s lives in danger.
Meanwhile, a diamond heist goes down in which Franky Four Fingers (an underused Benecio Del Toro) lifts a humongous gem to give to his boss Avi. Placing a bet on Turkish’s boxing match, he lets Russian gangster Boris the Blade onto the scene, who proceeds to set up Franky to get mobbed by his buddies Vinny and Sol. After Franky gets jacked, Avi gets hard-ass “Bullet Tooth” Tony (Vinnie Jones from “Lock, Stock …”) to get the diamond back. Needless to say, double-crossing, back-stabbing and violence ensues as the diamond chasers’ path intersects with Brick Top’s operations.
Beyond the painfully glaring similarities to Tarantino, the problem with “Snatch” is that the film is so forced it seems like one big exercise of willpower. Nothing is allowed to occur gradually or organically, as Ritchie doesn’t give his actors (and they’re all actors) any time to really get into their roles. Instead, Ritchie has plot twists just to have plot twists without having them serve any larger purpose. The result is a film that runs up, down and back again like children on a treasure hunt.
Beyond the killer soundtrack and some real laugh-out-loud moments, Pitt is the main highlight of the film. Back in “Fight Club” form, he brings Mickey to life amid all the “fucking-this,” “fucking-that” one-liners and one-dimensional characters. Finding his old “Devil’s Own” dialect back, Pitt is hilarious.
A lot of people were looking forward to this film since “Lock, Stock …” was so good. But in assuming that his audience must suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder, Ritchie unfortunately makes a trite film in which plotlines disintegrate like Ritalin in the bile.