Guy Ritchie, writer/director of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, delivers another awe-inspiring directorial masterpiece, SNATCH - an edgy and hilarious film about a diamond heist gone wrong, a colorful Irish gypsy-turned-prize fighter...and a very temperamental dog.
In the heart of gangland, two novice unlicensed boxing promoters, Turkish (Jason Statham) and Tommy (Stephen Graham), get roped into organizing a rigged bare-knuckle fight with local kingpin/villain and fellow boxing promoter Brick Top (Alan Ford). But all goes wrong when wildcard Irish gypsy boxer One Punch Mickey O'Neil (Brad Pitt) starts playing by his own rules, and the duo find themselves heading for a whole lot of trouble.
Meanwhile, Franky Four Fingers (Benicio Del Toro) and his stolen 86-carat diamond have gone missing in London. Head honcho Avi (Dennis Farina) hires local legend Bullet Tooth Tony (Vinnie Jones) to find them, launching everyone into a spiral of double-crossing vendettas and events, most of them illegal.
'Snatch' is sort of the ultimate Guy Ritchie movie.
After the moderate critical and commercial success of his razzle dazzle debut 'Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels' (to those charmed enough by his directorial/editorial flourishes to forgive its post-Tarantino blandness), Ritchie had a lot of clout and a bunch of actors who should have known better begging to be in his next movie.
Well, his next movie was a lot like his first movie. Actually, most of his movies follow the formula of 'Lock, Stock…' - there's an object (in 'Lock, Stock…' it's the guns, in 'RockNRolla' it's the painting etc.) that gets passed around a kind of cartoonish Dickensian cabal of underworld thugs. People have names like "Bullet Tooth" Tony (funny names stand in for character development) and curse and shoot each other. A lot of calamitous stuff happens and whether or not you understand it (or it makes sense in the larger context of the film), well, that doesn't matter much.
In the case of 'Snatch,' the object-in-question is a fist-sized diamond that gets bounced around the London underworld. Since the plot is a wild jumble of shoot-outs, hold-ups, double-crosses, and underground boxing matches, I'm going to go ahead and skip that bit of unpleasant business. If you have seen 'Lock, Stock…' you know what you're in for - lots of flashy camera moves, ratatat editing flourishes, and long shots of dudes walking down hallways. It's about the journey, more than the destination. And in that fashion, it may not add up or make a whole lot of sense, but it's a lot of fun anyway.
The colorful characters who inhabit 'Snatch' include Turkish (Jason Statham), a small-time hustler; Mickey (Brad Pitt), a gypsy hustler and underground boxer; Cousin Avi (Dennis Farina), a Jewish mobster from New York; Frankie "Four-Fingers" (Benicio del Toro), a thief; and "Bullet Tooth" Tony (Vinnie Jones), a very bad-ass man. They're all vying for this giant diamond, and the various twists and turns that that path takes is what keeps 'Snatch' motoring along.
I'm not crazy about Guy Ritchie's oeuvre (although I do think he got too much grief for 'Revolver'). He's pretty one-note and none of his movies mean anything besides the airy 100 minutes you spend watching them. But that said, he does what he does fairly well and seems genuinely committed to the comic book world of London gangsters that he's created.
'Snatch' is snappy, I'll give it that. And it gave us a peek into the Brad Pitt's mind frame, as an early step in his eventual conquest of being the world's greatest character actor. Also, the soundtrack is phenomenal, and everyone seems to be having a good time. You could spend your time watching a far worse faux hip tough guy movie (hello, 'Boondock Saints'), with far less style or visual oomph. It's just that I couldn't help but think how weird it was that Ritchie's former production partner, Matthew Vaughn, would go off and direct his own British gangster movie, 'Layer Cake,' and improve on the Ritchie formula in every way, delivering a stylish movie that has the one thing that Ritchie's movies don’t: weight and a twinkle of emotional insight.
'Snatch' comes equipped with an MPEG-4 AVC 1080p transfer (maintaining its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1) that is fairly vigorous. It's just that 'Snatch' wasn't a particularly pretty movie to begin with, so when talking about this upgraded transfer, it's hard not to feel your hand seesawing. How, exactly, does one rate a decent looking transfer of a lousy looking movie?
First, the positive: There is noticeable improvement in the image quality from previous home video releases. Skin tones look good; detail is markedly better (in everything from fabrics to set dressing to hair styles); and black levels are solid if not bottomless. And there aren't any wonky technical issues or glitches to speak of. Everything looks pretty good.
Then again, it's kind of a lousy looking movie. Much of it takes place in dimly lit gangster holes. There are a couple of shots that are even out of focus (this is discussed on the commentary track!) It's quite clearly an inexpensive movie, with much more time and effort being given to how the filmmakers would manipulate the image in post-production (with various editing techniques, the addition of music etc.) than when they were actually shooting it.
So yes, while this is a much better looking version of the movie, the movie itself is still kind of sloppy and muddy looking. So if you're a super-fan you'll probably notice more in the way of improvements than I did. Still, it's quite solid.
The audio mix on this disc is presented in a muscular DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. 'Snatch' is a noisy movie, and this mix does a great job of representing that noise in a clear and efficient way.
Your surround sound set-up will certainly get a workout. Not only are there a number of scenes with gunplay, but there's an entire underground boxing subplot (with every punch rendered lovingly) and Guy Ritchie's over-cranked worldview makes it so that every cut, camera angle, and close up has it's own whooshing sound effect. Plus, there's that killer soundtrack, which you'll want to crank up to 11 because, really, it sounds that good.
Elsewhere on this track, directionality is good, as is ambience. Also, dialogue is reproduced exceedingly well. Every word sounds clear and crisp and is well prioritized. Even though you might not understand it, Brad Pitt's crazy gypsy language comes across well.
This track may lack subtlety or nuance but, hey, this is a Guy Ritchie film after all!
Other language tracks included on this disc are French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Portuguese: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1. Additionally, there are subtitles in English, English SDH, French, Portuguese, Spanish, and Pikey (the pidgin Gypsy dialect Brad Pitt speaks).
Most of the extras are reproduced from the two-disc Sony DVD from a few years back. None of them are all that interesting. Sony has also added a couple of Blu-ray exclusives, both of those aren't so hot. Also, there are some annoying "previews," but that's not much of a "special feature" is it?
'Snatch' is an okay movie. It's got plenty of style and a couple of cool sequences, but not much else. If you're dazzled by the chaotic, style-over-substance filmmaking of director Guy Ritchie, then you'll probably love this disc. It's got a nice bump in quality on the video spectrum and the audio is quite good. The extras (both those held over from the previous releases and the newly created stuff for this disc) are fairly lackluster, however, and the energy and excitement that once surrounded Guy Ritchie's sophomore film has waned in the years since its release. If you're a fan, go for it. You won't be disappointed. If you're not a fan of Guy Ritchie's single-minded oeuvre or are approaching this film for the first time in years, this is only recommended.