1 – Snatch
‘If it’s not broken, why fix it?’ is a question/phrase Guy Ritchie followed when writing and directing his second feature Snatch. Why, indeed.
Where films like RocknRolla and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows would have Ritchie return to familiar ground, but have the ante upped to either nonsensical sensationalism or tiresome retreads; Snatch addresses the strengths of his prior film Lock, Stock… and brings us his masterpiece.
Yes, it is a multi-plotted story; yes, it utilizes the hyperlink narrative structure; yes, it’s about gangsters in East London; yes, there is a voice over narrator; and, yes, the domino effect snowballs to a high body count. Ritchie does greatly repeat himself here, but the differences lie in the details.
Its major strength is in the humor; to date it is his funniest script that is laced with scathing British sarcasm, sharp dialogue, and black comedic set pieces. The jokes in the dialogue are intrinsic to the characters for it highlights they’re entrenched in a world where one’s own concerns aren’t really discussed, it masks the fear they constantly live in, and, more importantly, it serves to remind everyone that humor can be found anywhere.
As such, the characters are richly detailed, given their short screen-time and the fast-paced plot; no line is wasted to keep the momentum, nor do they speak simply to forward the story. One notable character that stands above all others in this film, and Ritchie’s filmography, is Alan Ford’s Brick Top. This sharply witted, arrogant, vile, ‘unhinged pig-feeding gangster,’ spews such bile that whoever he directs such venom towards will feel the burn from that acid tongue. The beautifully written dialogue, and astounding performance by Ford has been used in this brilliant fan re-edit of Star Wars, which has his dialogue dubbed over Darth Vader’s.
The dark set pieces make a sharp contrast to the humor that precedes it, notably when the Gypsy/’Pikey’ Mickey’s (Brad Pitt) mum is burnt alive by Brick Top’s henchmen due to fixed fight gone wrong. While it’s not explicitly shown, Turkish’s narration, its slowed-down shot composition, and Pitt’s performance serves as a reminder of Brick Tops cold attitude and huge presence over the film.
Snatch is undoubtedly Guy Ritchie’s best film as it fuses many of the components he will use later on in his career, only done here with great poise, balance, and style. It’s a darkly comedic crime caper that rightly ups the ante from his debut.