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DVD Review: Snatch

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Written and directed by Guy Ritchie


Released by Columbia/Tri Star Home Entertainment


Starring Benicio Del Toro, Dennis Farina, Vinnie Jones, Brad Pitt and Jason Statham


Rated R, 103 min.


Say what you like about Quentin Tarantino, but even his detractors cannot deny his influence on contemporary filmmaking. I used to be silly enough to believe that Hong Kong was the only motion picture mecca to rush out countless, inferior knock-offs once one movie found a successful formula. Not so. After Pulp Fiction hit the box office like a neutron bomb and won countless awards, every dark comedic crime caper even close to development seemed to automatically get the green light and every 20-something with a screenplay and two weeks of film school was suddenly a “director”.


Now, sure the former video-clerk-turned-auteur-of-the-month directed three better-than-average movies (which isn’t hard by Hollywood’s current standards), wrote a few decent screenplays and even got to bone Mira Sorvino for a minute in the interim, but that doesn’t make him the Second Coming like most critics touted him as after his brief brush with success in 1994. Fortunately, now we all know the truth. It’s 2001 and we’re all still waiting for Tarantino’s next opus or piece of “genius” to validate the critical accolades. In the meantime, I’ve only lived in three different countries, held seven different jobs, gotten married and a had a child since I first saw the last film he helmed, the overly-long Jackie Brown in a shitty Hawaiian theater on Christmas Day back in 1997. That’s one hell of a hiatus. Even for a “genius”.


I bring all of this up because I don’t understand why someone would want to emulate Q.T.’s formula for “success”. But Guy Ritchie, definitely one of the new millenium’s Children of Tarantino, seems bound and determined to do just that. Ritchie’s “style” is equal parts Tarantino-like fractured pacing, storytelling and snappy dialogue, classic British gangster movie atmosphere and MTV music video-style filming and editing techniques.


The Movie:


There are several schools of thought concerning Ritchie’s Snatch. The most prevalent one would be the stigma that hangs over movies such as The Evil Dead and Evil Dead II or El Mariachi and Desperado: Is it a sequel, bigger-budget remake or a brand new stand-alone film? Snatch suffers from this confusion mainly due to the fact that it revisits a lot of similar themes and plotlines as Ritchie’s first feature, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. The parallels are numerous. The first of which is Ritchie’s use of the British criminal underworld. The second would be dumb, bumbling amateur crooks in way over their heads with said criminal element. And three would be what Hitchcock referred to as the MacGuffin, an inanimate object that jump starts the story and passes from character to character, bringing them into contact, and sometimes conflict, with one another. In Lock Stock it was the two antique rifles. In Snatch, it’s an immense 84kt. diamond.


The numerous, hilarious dialects and the comic book-named characters that spew them are also more than a tad familiar. While Brad Pitt’s mumble-mouthed boxing gypsy is a highlight of the film and easily the most entertaining and enjoyable of these characters (trying to decipher what he’s saying is always fun), by the time Dennis Farina’s Cousin Avi makes his first screen appearance, his familiar Chicago-bred colloquialisms and endless string of F-bombs are like the proverbial breath of fresh air.


Ritchie’s attempts to ape Tarantino are indeed valiant, but they fall short on so many levels. His hyperactive directorial style can be a bit annoying if you are not expecting it nor prepared for it by seeing either his previous work or countless hours of seizure-inducing episodes of Pokemon. It’s like someone handed Ritchie the “New School Director’s Shot Manual” and he literally tried to throw in “every trick in the book”. He spins the camera this way and that, flashes back, freeze frames, slows down the action, speeds it back up, blurs the image and splits screens like it’s going out of style. Sometimes all in one scene. In the span of thirty seconds. The end result can be quite…dizzying.


His writing leaves just as much to be desired. It’s plenty funny, don’t get me wrong, but it’s a shade less witty than Tarantino’s trademark dialogue or even that of Kevin Smith. Maybe the humor just doesn’t translate; like an episode of Benny Hill. The one area where Mr. Madonna does succeed admirably is juxtaposing his heavy-handed violence with moments of hilarity. Ritchie managed to make me laugh while a man gets his tea cozy-covered head blown off, one his limbs hacked from his body and a Russian arms dealer gets hit by a speeding car. There’s something to be said for that, although I’m not quite sure what exactly. And don’t think that Ritchie has limited himself to just ripping off Q.T., either. There’s a crooked fight promoter by the name of Brick Top in the movie, who keeps a sty of man-eating pigs that seem borrowed from Thomas Harris’ novel Hannibal.


The DVD:


Snatch is presented in 1:85:1 anamorphic widescreen. There is also a full frame version available that can be selected from the main menu. Snatch has an intentionally gritty and grainy that helps to serve the story. I didn’t notice any major flaws in the transfer, although director Ritchie mentions a few nitpicky ones in his commentary.


The sound is in 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound, as per usual for most DVD’s nowadays. The dialogue is clear, music sequences rock and those sequences are plentiful. I think Ritchie may have missed his calling as a full-time music video director. Snatch has a really good soundtrack and Ritchie even manages to sneak wifey’s “Lucky Star” into la pelicula. (Vinnie Jones’ Bullet-Tooth Tony: “God, I LOVE this track!”) The ambient sounds aren’t plentiful but a really cool one is especially noticeable when Turkish goes to visit Mickey after a night of heavy drinking. There are also “Pikey-to-English” subtitles for those of you who have a hard time understanding Brad Pitt’s fast-talking character.


Snatch has a commentary track with director Guy Ritchie and producer Matthew Vaughn. They alternate between joking and bickering but somehow it works and they manage to dispense a few gems of info along the way. There is a 25 minute “Making of Snatch” documentary if you didn’t get your fill of Ritchie’s and Vaughn’s witty banter in the commentary. This time just add Jason Statham, who played Turkish. There are six deleted scenes that can be viewed separately or within the actual movie with the “Stealing Stones” option. Those scenes are presented in full frame and have a commentary track option available.


Other extras include a video photo gallery, storyboard comparison, 3 U.S. TV spots, the U.K. and U.S. theatrical trailers and six other trailers. (including Go, Dogma, The Professional and Dr. Strangelove, which makes this the best disc for trailers that I’ve ever come across…you know, if you’re into that sort of thing) Production notes are included on the insert that comes with the disc. Oh, and I can’t forget the requisite Easter Egg on the disc. See if you can find it.




I guess you can make anything seem bad if you pick it apart and overanalyze it enough. I mean, Benicio Del Toro’s role is little more than a glorified cameo. Barring that, the truth is that Snatch is a thoroughly enjoyable and energetic piece of cinema worth checking out. It’s a definite buy for your home library and you will watch it more than once. Way more. If Ritchie is following Tarantino’s blueprint for fame, then that means that Snatch is his Pulp Fiction, right? It is. And it more than deserves a spot in the pantheon of dark crime comedies that have been released in Pulp’s wake. If the world was a room full of Tarantino imitators, Ritchie would be at the head of the class.


O. R. Polk, Jr.

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