A rollicking exercise in perverse darkness, Guy Ritchie’s sophomore outing, Snatch, is the rare film that produces disgust-induced humor with some degree of frequency and yet never stoops to a juvenile level. The laughs in this crime-dominated movie find their origin in a hearty combination of relatively innocent matters like gambling addictions, thick accents and trans-Atlantic travel as well as less innocent yet equally amusing situations presented including unlicensed boxing matches where the fix is in, a murderer who uses pigs to dispose of his bodies and a band of less-than-honest gypsies.
Sorting out the plot of Snatch is a slightly more strenuous task, however. An oddly unique combination of Goodfellas, Entrapment and, in a more limited respect, Diamonds, the movie follows a crime ring, diamond heist and boxing scam that all intersect early and often. It all starts when Franky Four Fingers (Benicio Del Toro, who follows up his much-noted role in Traffic with another solid performance) gets laid over in London on his way back to the States where he is to deliver a huge diamond to his boss, Avi (Dennis Farina). Meanwhile, he has some smaller diamonds he decides to unload while in town. In the process, his gambling addiction takes a toll and he gives into temptation when asked to place a bet on one of the aforementioned unlicensed bare-knuckle bouts that would give even Don King the willies. The wager is, of course, a set up and soon enough Franky Four Fingers has a problem on his hands. Enter Mickey O Neil (Brad Pitt, who gives one of his better and more enjoyable performances in his return to a fighting role after the hugely-popular Fight Club ), an Irish gypsy with extraordinary charisma and a heavy, incomprehensible accent that is worsened for the viewer by his fluency in Cockney Rhyming Slang. After knocking out the boxer who was set to go down in the match, Mickey must fill in for him. Problem is that Mickey doesn t take orders too well.
There are more characters and additional plot lines, but writer/director Ritchie seems thoroughly uninterested in their clarity. And that is perhaps a wise move as an understanding of the basic outline and an appreciation for the sinful and oftentimes-morbid humor is enough to enjoy this fine piece of art. And to fill whatever voids may remain, a phenomenal ensemble effort and some very creative camerawork are at Ritchie s disposal.
Pitt steals the show with his hearty accent, scraggly facial hair and obviously phony enthusiasm about the mess he gets himself into. Unfortunately for Pitt, the film is being released three weeks after the cutoff for consideration in 2000, a year full of generally weak supporting performances where his might be considered among the finest. But it is still far too early to speculate how he may stack up against the class of 2001. Benicio Del Toro also comes across strong in yet another gangster performance, following earlier successes in The Usual Suspects, The Way of the Gun and, most recently, Traffic. The rest of the cast is delightful to watch in their oddly creepy roles, including Vinnie Jones as Bullet Tooth Tony and Alan Ford as Brick Top.
Release Date: January 19, 2001
Studio: Screen Gems
Cast: Benicio Del Toro, Dennis Farina, Brad Pitt
Director: Guy Ritchie
Screenplay: Guy Ritchie
Producer: Matthew Vaughn
Ritchie, along with director of photography Tim Maurice-Jones and editor Jon Harris, creates a strangely unique visual effect in many parts of the film. Whether it be snappy editing with isolated colors in the film s opening montage or just generally deft coverage of the movie s bouts, the trio recognize the possibility of visuals even in a film made to look grungy and realize that possibility fully here.
Be warned that Snatch can be quite offensive at times. The film s most subtle yet humorous line is a character s inquisitive In the quiet words of the Virgin Mary, please come again. There are Irish jokes scattered throughout. It takes less than five minutes for a Jewish joke to pop up. The film even takes a potshot at the British from time to time. But even if 2001 is truly the beginning of the politically correct millennium, Snatch is the finest film to be released thus far and well worth a look by most adult audiences.