Film - Snatch

Snatch

The Cockney Gangster masterpiece of Snatch is viewed by the non-Cockney, non-Gangster master steve harris...

Do what? It’s been fifteen years since Snatch first hit the screens? Fifteen years since Guy Ritchie’s best movie? Since Jason Statham’s only truly standout performance? Since Brad Pitt confirmed his status as an actual great of the silver screen with his hilarious neo-gibberish attempt to play an Anglo/Irish gypsy?

Yup. Throw in Mike Reid being told to “Sit down and shut up you big, bald fuck,” and Alan Ford’s poetic definition of a nemesis: “A righteous infliction of retribution manifested by an appropriate agent. Personified in this case by a ‘orrible cunt…me” plus Vinnie Jones spitting lines like he means them and you have a splendid collective of perfectly cast actors pulling successfully together to make a gangster London movie which is superior to Ritchie’s debut.

Yeah okay so Ford’s speech does smack more than a little of Samuel L Jackson bawling “And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger…” but that’s sort of the point. ‘Lock Stock…’ and ‘Snatch’ are Anglicised versions of Tarantino’s early works. Sorry Quentin, no use getting uppity about it when you spent your early career stealing from 50s noir and 70s/80s Hong Kong cinema.

What it is easy to forget when you’ve not watched either of Ritchie’s first two movies for a while and have been jaded by his subsequent failure to deliver a wholly satisfying script, let alone movie (‘Rock ‘n’ Rolla’ could have worked but for various reasons it just didn’t), what it is easy to forget it how much Ritchie appeared to learn between wrapping on ‘Lock Stock’ and starting to shoot ‘Snatch’.

There are fewer artsy TV ad-influenced sequences, for one thing. Now If I were to pick a seminal Ritchie moment it is that ‘Lock Stock…’ scene depicting Nick Moran’s bilious realisation that he’s just been cheated out of the quarter of a million he and three chums have scraped together to get him into a dangerous but potentially highly rewarding poker game. The tension, the nausea and the terror inherent to Moran’s character in this moment are sublimely enhanced by the near-perfect soundtrack (“Iggy and The Stooges spunking their way through ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’) and by the most artsy, ad-influence camera trickery in any Ritchie movie (hand held camera held right up in Moran’s gullet and deliberately rendered shaky to mirror the weakness and unreliability of his legs and nervous system).

In acknowledging this, however, it also needs recognising that Brad Pitt’s enormously influential movie Fight Club, released a year before Snatch, virtually wiped out the possibility of subsequent emulators of the ad style being taken seriously. Because overkill. Because they couldn’t come across as innovative. Oh and just cos I find it interesting – Pitt came from the set of Fight Club over to the UK to film his scenes for Snatch which is why his pumped up torso still looks perfect for this role despite being shit-smeared with hideous home-tattoo work.

Side-thought – the “Lock Stock…” kind of artsy shot working almost like a hyperlink to the main cinematic action on a film elevates certain moments of the otherwise totally pointless Statham vehicles Crank 1 & 2 some years later; elevates them way beyond the ridiculous cartoonery that script, acting or premise deserve.

Something else that Ritchie appears to have learnt is how to properly dovetail seemingly separate scenes and characters into the realities and lives of one another without viewers needing to see the film four times to understand what has happened. Everything is tighter than on ‘Lock Stock…’ and I say this despite the first film also being one of my favourite modern British movies.

Ritchie’s reputation was already sky high following his debut (Yeah, yeah, ‘The Hard Case’ came before ‘Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’ but that’s a short.). How else could he have persuaded Pitt, Dennis Farina and Benicio Del Toro to appear in ‘Snatch’?

As I say, the casting in every instance is perfect. Matthew Vaughan’s cinematography is so crystal, so judiciously framed that he was able to go off and make a movie of his own that would surpass either of the first two Ritchie classics (that’ll be ‘Layer Cake’, for the ignorant amongst you).

If you don’t like this movie you might be proper fucked. You may need protection. You may need to find a partner to hold hands and take windy walks with. You may need to watch it again and again and again until you finally see the sheer beauty of every line, the wondrous symmetry of every intertwining scene.

Or you could fuck off and watch vile sub-porn shit about some sexually abusive prick called Christian Grey and imagine you’re watching arthouse cinema. Which you won’t be, you’ll simply be putting back the cause of feminism about half a century by fiscally agreeing to call this hideous misrepresentation of BDSM relationships ‘entertainment’. I probably hate you if you’ve read that book, too. At least Ritchie started off writing about characters and subjects he genuinely knew something about even if he did piss off to Hollywood and wank his talent away on colourful yet vacuous sputum thereafter.

Image - Amazon