I’ve stated in some previous reviews that Jason Statham is a badass. I’ve also mentioned him in his work with Guy Ritchie, of which Snatch is the prime example. It’s also arguably Ritchie’s best film to date, often compared to Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels the way Pulp Fiction is compared to Reservoir Dogs. But before I start drawing parallels between two directors and lose what few readers & listeners I have, let’s talk about Snatch. The movie, not anything else. The film stars Jason Statham, Benicio Del Toro, Alan Ford, Stephen Graham, Dennis Farina, Rade Serbedzija, Mike Reid, Vinnie Jones, Lennie James, Robbie Gee, Ade and Brad Pitt.
Jason Statham is an underground boxing promoter in London by the name of Turkish. (Take notes, Dr. Boll, as he is not named “Boxer” or “Promoter”.) He and his partner Tommy (Stephen Graham) are trying to get their fighter, Gorgeous George, into the ring for a fair fight with one of the boxers promoted by local kingpin and pig enthusiast Brick Top (Alan Ford). Meanwhile, Frankie Four-Fingers (del Toro) has stolen a gigantic diamond from Antwerp to the delight of his boss Cousin Avi (Farina) and is heading to London to discuss his ill-gotten gains with Doug the Head (Reid). Aware of his arrival is Boris the Blade, aka Boris the Bullet-Dodger (Serbedzija), who taps two guys from a pawn shop to intercept Frankie before he can offload the rock. Brad Pitt is a fast-talking semi-Gypsy bare-knuckle fighter, Jones is a cold-as-ice bounty hunter named Bullet-Tooth Tony and Ade is the world’s largest getaway driver. We never learn the name of the dog.
If you’re not confused yet, I’m impressed. The film juggles these disparate plots while standing on one foot and telling off-color jokes. If you’re easily offended by foul language, particularly the word “fuck,” you probably don’t want to watch this film. Or even be in the next room if it’s playing. The liberal use of “fuck” throughout the film might be explained away by some as a lack of intelligence since smart people find other ways to express themselves, but the adept balancing of the various plots and the three-dimensionality of most of the players indicate that plenty of higher brain functions were being engaged in this film’s creation.
While some movies struggle to cohesively tell one plot from start to finish, Snatch handles quite a few, which begin on separate tracks but slowly begin to weave in and out of each other. As I mentioned, most of the key players are given depth and characterization. Turkish, in particular, shows a gamut of emotions, from grim sarcastic satisfaction to almost palpable desperation. Brick Top is charismatic and even funny while being menacing, especially in a scene towards the middle of the film. The guys from the pawn shop are trying to move a body (I won’t say whose) when Brick Top appears and instructs them on an efficient and organic way to deal with such things: feed the body to pigs. After his informative if somewhat macabre tutorial, he rises from the couch and asks simply, “D’you know what the word ‘nemesis’ means?” Despite the comical tone of most of this film, Alan Ford’s delivery can be downright chilling. We’ve seen how ruthless and unhinged Brick Top can be by this point, so his quiet, understated question has all of the bite and discomfort of a circular saw dismembering a corpse in preparation for a piggy feast.
But as much as I love the characters of Turkish and Brick Top, the film is very nearly stolen entirely by Brad Pitt’s turn as Mickey, the Pikey bare-knuckle scrapper. Pikies are modern-day nomads, living out of caravans as they move from one campsite to another. They speak in an accent that is, in the words of Turkish, “not exactly English and not exactly Irish.” And most of them speak fast. Very fast. It’s part of their plan to pull the wool over the eyes of people with whom they do business, but it has the side effect of being absolutely hilarious. And the way we are introduced to this class of people is the same man who portrayed the dead-eyed reluctant predator in Interview with the Vampire and the gritty, ambitious detective Mills in Se7en. He’s bombastic, energetic, quick-witted and funny, yet also finds time to show a range of emotion from heartbroken rage to cold and calculating. If you don’t think Brad Pitt can act, you should see this movie. Then hit yourself in the face with a cricket bat.
Guy Ritchie’s writing and direction in this film are at their zenith. The jokes are funny, the characters are believable and the stories move along just fast enough to keep us off-balance without being terribly confusing, my condensed recap of the opening act notwithstanding. The action and violence grow organically from the story and setting, rather than appearing out of nowhere. You actually have to think, as the film speeds along, about what is happening to whom as the different plots begin to mix. Even the soundtrack is pitch-perfect, from Massive Attack’s haunting “Angel” to Oasis’ high-energy rocking “Fucking in the Bushes.” We even have great camera angles, fantastic framing and some of Guy Ritchie’s trademark jarring interludes. Pay attention whenever anybody mentions gambling to Frankie Four-Fingers to see what I mean.
Now, as I’ve mentioned, the language might be a little too intense for some people. And the frenetic pace and slightly offbeat nature of both the writing and direction might be a turn-off to others. If these are obstacles to seeing Snatch, however, I consider that a deplorable shame. This is some of the best cinematic storytelling I’ve had the pleasure to watch. The word ‘caper’ doesn’t quite do it justice. It’s smart, funny, gritty, intense and awesome from start to finish. Not one moment or shot is wasted. You may have seen Snatch already if you’re a regular reader or listener of my material. If you don’t own a copy, you should, but if you need convincing, toss it on your Netflix queue. And if you haven’t seen Snatch before, you should not only add it to your queue but bump it right to the top. It’s not just brilliant – it’s fucking brilliant.
Josh Loomis can’t always make it to the local megaplex, and thus must turn to alternative forms of cinematic entertainment. There might not be overpriced soda pop & over-buttered popcorn, and it’s unclear if this week’s film came in the mail or was delivered via the dark & mysterious tubes of the Internet. Only one thing is certain… IT CAME FROM NETFLIX.