Blokey but brilliant

Snatch

This is a bloke’s film through and through, but if you can get past the tired old fact that no decent role goes to a woman, this is a sharp piece of film-making that will leave you gasping for breath.

Strike two is the fact that Snatch is unashamedly a recycled version of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, but two facts diminish that criticism: a) this film wasn’t given a cinema release in Bangkok and b) it’s still very, very funny and just as clever as its predecessor.

There’s no strike three. Snatch is slick and stylish without being overproduced, it’s quick without being too smart for its own good and entertaining without being utterly gratuitous. Guy Ritchie is still the UK’s answer to Quentin Tarantino, only he’s much funnier.

The film kicks off with narrator Turkish (Jason Statham) telling us he’s involved in the illegal boxing world but has somehow become mixed up with a diamond over the past week. Cut to a week ago when Turkish orders his right hand man Tommy (Stephen Graham) to go buy a new caravan, a catalyst for a series of crisscrossing events that make up the film’s complicated plot.

At a local gypsy caravan park where the caravan awaits them, Tommy and a thug meet middle-man Mickey (Brad Pitt in Fight Club mode), who sells them a dud that doesn’t make it back to the main road. Mickey incapacitates the thug, who’s due to play in an illegal fight, and in a roundabout way he ends up in the fight himself.

At the same time, a gang has stolen an 84-carat diamond from a high-security facility in Antwerp. Franky Four Fingers (Del Toro – if we’re going to have a bloke’s flick, why can’t they all be this good looking?) is in charge of getting the diamond back to London and sold, but phone calls all around mean there are plenty of others who want that diamond. Let the race begin.

And just try keeping up with the competitors. There’s Cousin Avi (Dennis Farina), the sole Yank who pulls the least laughs, his Brit cousin Doug the Head (Mike Reid), Uzbekhistanian Boris the Blade aka Boris the Bullet Dodger (Rade Serbedzija), serious gangster Brick Top (Alan Ford), and a pawn shop owner and his mates who are in way over their heads but whose dog becomes integral to the film’s outcome.

It’s a tight plot and it all dovetails very, very nicely at the end. The dialogue is punchy, unpredictable and hilarious in a way that only British films can be, while the jump cuts and gimmicky editing is limited enough for it to remain a pleasing diversion. Is this what Hollywood films might be like if there weren’t so many people trying to fiddle with scripts?

The casting is exceptional, with the film’s harsh lighting lending an intriguing look to even the ugliest of faces – and there are plenty of those to go around here. It’s unfair to pick favorites, but most noteworthy are Alan Ford, who has some great lines and delivers them with frightening verve, and Del Toro, who looks as if he’s going to evolve into an important character but doesn’t quite get the chance.

Those born in the late sixties to early seventies will probably love the soundtrack, which is catchy but still exists to serve the film rather than the other way around. Keep an eye out for Ritchie’s complement to Madonna – Vinnie Jone’s character says outright that he loves "Lucky Star".

This may well be Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels II, but Ritchie did provide a uniquely special twist to Tarantino-ism that was certainly asking to be milked for at least more than one film. The big question might be: how far he can sustain his style with variations as good as Snatch?

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