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SNATCH

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Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Benicio Del Toro, Dennis Farina, Vinnie Jones, Brad Pitt, Rade Sherbedgia, Jason Statham
Director: Guy Ritchie
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround, French Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1, Standard 1.33:1
Studio: Columbia Tri Star
Features: See Review
Length: 103 Minutes
Release Date: July 3, 2001

“What’s a gun doing in your trousers?”
“It’s for protection.”
“Protection from what? Ze Germans?”

Film ****

Snatch is brilliant, full-blown proof that Guy Ritchie is England’s answer to Quentin Tarantino. Although the thugs depicted in Tarantino’s movies aren’t necessary the smartest of all people, the ones in Ritchie’s films seem to be more inept by comparison. The director’s freshman effort, 1998’s Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, was dubbed “a disgrace to criminals everywhere, and Snatch is in the same vein in displaying criminal activity of the most unbelievably incompetent manner, making it a violent, hugely funny joyride. What helps boost Snatch to a higher level of enjoyment is the blazingly original use of flashy camera work and quick-as-a-wink editing.

Many critics felt that for Snatch, Ritchie had essentially taken his first movie and completely recycled it for a mainstream audience. He may have done so, but Snatch exceeds Ritchie’s previous film by a lot, because for the sole reason that every single minute of the movie is purely energetic and remains that way for the entire film. Like Pulp Fiction, we are given a colorful array of characters, who are all in pursuit of a diamond the size of a baby’s fist. Turkish (Jason Statham), who also serves as the film’s narrator, is a boxing promoter who is unwillingly pulled into the story. The diamond is initially stolen in Antwerp by Franky Four Fingers (Benicio Del Toro), who brings it to London. Once there, it is hotly pursued by the likes of an American "businessman", Cousin Avi (Dennis Farina), his blustering British cousin, Doug the Head (Mike Reid), and his hard-nosed sidekick, Bullet Tooth Tony (Vinnie Jones). Also in the hunt are ex-KGB agent Boris the Blade (Rade Serbedgia), sadistic crime boss Brick Top (Alan Ford), and a group of inept thieves with a pet dog. To further complicate matters, we are introduced to bare-knuckle boxer Mickey O'Neil (Brad Pitt), whose fortunes become integral to the convoluted narrative's eventual resolution. Other characters who are thrown into the mix are Tyrone (Ade), Sol (Lennie James), and Vinny (Robbie Gee); three bumbling pawn store workers who also acquire a chubbish dog who actually comes to play as a most important plot element.

Ritchie is a unique pro at frequent fast cuts and quick edits to convey a lot of information in a short time, such as when Cousin Avi flies back and forth between the U.S. and the U.K., and he occasionally rewinds the story to show an event from a different viewpoint, such as a riveting scene involving a car accident, which is depicted first from the inside, then, moments later, shown again from the outside. And like Tarantino, he finds the perfect spots to illustrate how violence can be used as comedy, such as the use of guns called replicas, and the frequent demise of a character who according to the movie, is impossible to kill. Most of the violence is indeed graphic, but about 75% is used for a comedic effect, which is riveting in its own.

As complicated as the plot is, I’m amazed that I was able to cover much of it, but Snatch is dynamite entertainment at its very best. This is simply an amazing cast, including scene-stealing performances from Dennis Farina and Vinnie Jones, who are unexpectedly paired together for some of the film’s most funny scenes, and then there’s the amazing performance from Brad Pitt, who is very hard to understand, but the DVD thankfully threw in subtitles to detect what exactly he was saying. Snatch is by far one of this year’s greatest movies, and an illustration that Guy Ritchie is a rising brilliance here in states.

Video ****

Another superb video job from the folks at Columbia Tri Star. The disc includes both the anamorphic widescreen version, as well as the full frame version (something the studio hasn’t acquired for quite some time). The picture is sharp and crisp, and deprived of any flaws whatsoever. Colors appear low-key, as they are intended to appear, and the image is thoroughly lively.

Audio ****

The disc includes a Dolby 5.1 soundtrack, and the result is thus far, one of the best sounding discs you will come across this year. The imaging is coherent and when you have these kinds of accents that is something to be proud of. The soundtrack is completely perfected in this transfer, fueled with music ranging from techno to funk-like rhythms. Action scenes are terrifically perfected as well. A pat on the back to CTS, as this is one of their greatest sounding discs ever!

Features ****

Columbia Tri Star should also congratulate themselves on packaging one of their best lists of extras in history! The first disc offers a scene specific commentary by Guy Ritchie and producer Matthew Vaughn. It’s a well-done track with details to amuse both the hard-core technical fans and the people interested in details about the film. Ritchie has a damn fine sense of humor and he manages to keep the track interesting. The second feature of relevance is one called STEALING STONES, where the viewer can elect to play the deleted scenes during the film where a diamond appears.

On disc two, we have MAKING SNATCH, a 25-minute look at the movie and this documentary goes beyond the usual P&R stuff. It’s a fast paced look at the making of the film with all the naughty bits intact. You also have Ritchie playing chess and discussing the film. There are also several deleted scenes (which are also part of the STEALING STONES feature), which can be played with or without director commentary. The disc also includes storyboard comparisons that can be viewed as a whole or side by side with the film. The final extras are a video photo gallery, which is a five-minute sequence, which is edited together with music, and trailers for this film, as well as these other CTS releases: Dogma, Go, The Professional, Dr. Strangelove, The Lady From Shanghai, and the upcoming theatrical release, John Carpenter’s Ghosts of Mars.

Summary:

A great movie, and a great DVD release to match, Snatch is sure to make for a grand evening’s worth of blazing entertainment. Truly one of the best films of this year, as well as DVDs!