Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Snatch Review

Number 110 on the top 1000 greatest films of all time is Guy Ritchie's brilliant 2000 film Snatch.  Snatch is a British crime comedy film.

The film follows two intertwining narratives.  The first follows boxing promoter and arcade owner Turkish (Jason Statham) and his partner Tommy (Stephen Graham) as they try to survive the fiery temper of local gangster Brick-Top (Alan Ford.)  Their narrative sees them engage with Irish Traveller or Pikey, Mickey O'Neill (Brad Pitt) who is a bare-knuckle boxing champion.

The second narrative revolves around a diamond which every gangster in London wants to get their hands on.  There is the ex-KGB agent Boris "the Blade," (Rade Serbedzija) small-time crooks Sol (Lennie James,) Vinny (Robbie Gee) and Tyrone (Ade,) American diamond jeweller Avi (Dennis Farina,) bounty hunter Bullet-Tooth Tony (Vinnie Jones) and Brick-Top.

Due to the film's vast ensemble cast and its two intertwining narratives, on the surface, Snatch looks unnecessarily complicated.  However, nothing could be further from the truth.  Everything comes excellently together due to some great editing, laugh-out-loud moments and larger than life characters.  Snatch very much reminded me of Pulp Fiction due to its intricate double plot, great music choices and many different ironic twists involving chance and causality.

The best example of this would be when we have three different sets of characters all driving along the same set of road.  After Boris takes the diamond from Sol, Vinny and Tyrone, they track him down to see that he has been kidnapped by Avi and Bullet-Tooth Tony.  They follow Avi and Tony along the road in the hopes of stealing the diamond back.  Tommy and Turkish are coincidentally driving along the same stretch of road.  When Tommy throws Turkish's carton of milk out of the window, it splashes over the windscreen of Tony's car leading him to crash.  In the ensuing chaos, Boris escapes, but he is promptly run over by Sol, Vinny and Tyrone.  This scene was just so ridiculous, but it worked well, and it was one of the funnier moments of the film.

Another funny moment comes from Sol, Vinny and Tyrone who botch the robbery of a bookie's so badly that they could be contenders for world's dumbest criminals.  From Tyrone crashing the getaway car into a van to Sol having his shotgun taken from him by the very person he was robbing, this was the funniest moment of the film.  It's made even funnier due to how the person they were supposed to rob was gambler Frankie Four Fingers (Benicio Del Toro) who had stolen the diamond in the first place.  However, the van that Tyrone crashed into contained Frankie Four Fingers who was knocked unconscious by the blow.

Snatch is also set in London, which made a refreshing change of pace to the Wild West or Hollywood.  It was great seeing the grey buildings and the grey weather, but also great hearing the familiar accents.  Speaking of accents, a quick aside to mention Brad Pitt's Irish accent.  Although the Independent deemed it one of the worst ten accents to grace the silver screen, it added a lot to the film's humour.  It was so bad that it was  absolutely indecipherable, which was supposed to be the point.  Not only did the audience have trouble understanding him, but also the other characters.  To quote Turkish:

"Now there is a problem with Pikeys and gypsies.  You can't really understand much of what is being said.  It's not Irish.  It's not English.  It's just well.. Pikey."

I also know Stephen Graham and Lennie James best from Boardwalk Empire and The Walking Dead respectively, so it was great hearing them speak with their regular accents - well more regular than a New Yorkian or Georgian accents anyway.

Although there was a wide range of characters, they all were easily distinguishable from each other.  The characterisation was good.  Although I was a little confused as to who was who at first, I soon got my head around over who everybody was.  What was also really interesting was how the film lacked any clearly-cut good characters.  Turkish was supposed to be the protagonist, but even he was an anti-hero of sorts.  All of the rest were crooks, gangsters or pikeys.  Despite this, except for Brick-Top who was the obvious antagonist, I think the characters were well-developed to make them three-dimensional. They were all given redeemable features of sorts.  For example, the tough as nails Bullet-Tooth Tony was unwilling to cut open the dog who had swallowed down the diamond and Avi had a deep devotion to his bodyguard Rosebud.

But the best evidence of this point would be Mickey O'Neill.  Originally, Turkish had agreed to have "Gorgeous George" compete in a boxing match arranged by Brick-Top.  However, after O'Neill knocks him unconscious, Turkish enters O'Neill instead.  Brick-Top isn't happy about this and only agrees if O'Neill throws the fight in the fourth round.  What O'Neill does instead is knock-out his opponent straight away.

Brick-Top gives O'Neill one more chance, but he refuses to fight again unless Turkish buys a new caravan for his mother.  However, Brick-Top has stolen Turkish's money, as compensation for O'Neill failing to throw the fight.  After Turkish tells Brick-Top about O'Neill's hesitation, Brick-Top burns down Mrs O'Neill's caravan, killing her in the process.  Brick-Top also threatens to kill the rest of the pikeys if O'Neill doesn't fight.  O'Neill agrees to fight.

The day of the fight comes and when it looks like O'Neill is going to go down in the fourth, he knocks out his opponent.  Just when Brick-Top is ordering his men to gun down the rest of the Irish travellers, we see him being shot down by an unseen assailant.  It is then revealed that O'Neill has been masterminding a revenge plan of his own.  Suspecting that Brick-Top will go after the rest of his community, he orders his friends to ambush and shoot Brick-Top's men.  The assailant who kills Brick-Top is another of the pikeys.  This was a great way of bringing the film full-circle and it was a great illustration of the close-knit community that Irish Travellers have.

Although this film with its large ensemble cast and intricate double plotline might seem daunting at first, it is a great film.  It's low-budget, with some hilarious moments and great performances.  One of the best British films I've seen in a while.

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