DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
SNATCH (director/writer: Guy Ritchie; cinematographer: Tim Maurice-Jones; editor: Jon Harris; cast: Benicio Del Toro (Franky Four Fingers), Dennis Farina (Avi), Jason Flemyng (Darren),Vinnie Jones (Bullet Tooth Tony), Brad Pitt (Mickey O'Neil), Rade Sherbedgia (Boris the Blade), Jason Statham (Turkish), Stephen Graham (Tommy), Alan Ford (Brick Top), Ade (Tyrone), Lennie James (Sol), Robbie Gee (Vinny), Adam Fogerty (Gorgeous George), Mike Reid (Doug the Head), Sorcha Cusack (Mrs. O'Neil-Mickey's mother), Andy Beckwith (Errol); Runtime: 105; Screen Gems; 2000-UK/USA)

 
"Like the director's other film, this has no strong role for a woman."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

"Snatch" is Guy Ritchie's follow-up to his surprise box-office cult hit "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels." But even though he has made some improvements it's the same kind of empty, semi-serious/comedy/crime caper, with many of the same actors. This time the story holds together better and is much more amusing, thanks in a large part to the ensemble cast who come and go with seamless fluidity.

It's filled with an assortment of colorful Runyonesque characters from the underworld of crime, or illegal bare-knuckle boxing matches, or from the outcasts of society. There are shady Jewish diamond thieves speaking in broken Yiddish; black con artists running petty scams; members of a gypsy caravan engaged in various hustles; and, Brits with heavy cockney accents who are either thugs or wannabe thugs. Everyone is after some easy money. Like the director's other film, this has no strong role for a woman.

The main plot is series of mishaps over a stolen diamond that somehow brings together a varied mix of characters who are after it or are inadvertently drawn into its disappearance; but, the plot is really irrelevant, it plays as a McGuffin--this is strictly a character driven film, with all the characters being either lively in a cartoonish, undeveloped, or forgettable way.

Thieves posing as Hasidics heist a valuable, flawless 84-carat stone diamond from an Antwerp jeweler and split-up after the job, leaving the diamond with the exquisitely well-tailored Jewish gangster Franky Four Fingers (Benicio Del Toro). He places the diamond in a briefcase handcuffed to his wrist and calls his diamond dealer relative Avi (Farina) in New York. He tells him he has landed in London and has spoken to Doug the Head (Reid), who is a wannabe Jew and a jewelry fence.

The double-cross begins when one of the thieves, before they split, tells Franky to see the Russian, Boris the Blade (Sherbedgia), while in London, and he will get him a gun. The thief then calls his relative Boris and tells him to rob the diamond from Franky.

Boris gives the gun for free to Franky, but asks him to place a bet with a bookie on a boxing match. He then arranges for black pawnshop owner Sol (Lennie James) to rob the bookie and get the briefcase to him. Sol brings along for the job two inept partners, Vinny (Robbie Gee) and Tyrone (Ade).

The movie will spin-off in different directions, telling each groups' story, until it all comes together in the last reel. The film is narrated by the main protagonist, the somewhat likable Turkish (Jason Statham), who owns an amusement arcade and is a boxing promoter and is not above being a small-time crook. He has a sidekick who acts as his clueless assistant, Tommy (Stephen Graham).

Turkish wants a newer caravan instead of the wreck he currently uses for living in and as a business office. He sends Tommy to buy one, but he gets his main fighter beat up in the gypsy camp as he bargains for the caravan. To replace their fighter for an upcoming fight, Tommy gets the winning boxer Mickey (Pitt), an Irish gypsy with an indeciferable brogue and a body filled with tattoos. Mickey is told to take a dive in a bare-knuckles boxing match arranged by the sadistic Brick Top (Alan Ford), a notorious gang leader. 

Avi, when he finds out from Doug that Franky is going to a boxing match and can't be located, flies to London and hires Bullet Tooth Tony (former soccer star Vinnie Jones) to find Franky. Since Franky is a compulsive gambler and earned his nickname because he lost a finger over his bad luck in gambling, Avi fears he will lose the diamond to the bookies.

The film is played mostly for the comedy and it throws everything it thinks is crazy into the comic mix, even a shaggy dog story. The language used has many expletives and is often hard to understand because of the heavy accents. The violence is brutal but cartoonish, as the film is styled much like a comic book. Guy Ritchie's wife Madonna sings "Lucky Star." The rest of this heavily induced homage to musical video films, has a soundtrack that features artistic groups such as Massive Attack and Oasis.

Alan Ford's menacing psychotic performance, stood out as the film's most memorable. Pitt's self-effacing comedy was the performance I best enjoyed, while Dennis Farina was pleasingly comical.

The only slow down in the film is in the opening moments, when the large cast of characters is introduced. Other than that the film moves at high speed, with all kinds of film gimmicks, from jump-cuts to multi-use of graphics. This is a film that thrives on controlled chaos as its signature theme. I would call it another dumb cult picture the director has made, one that suffers because there is no one in this film to care about.

REVIEWED ON 3/18/2001     GRADE: C+

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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