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Laramie Movie Scope:
Snatch

A cleverly directed movie by Mr. Madonna

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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February 7, 2001 -- Guy Ritchie, who recently married Maddona, has come out with a high-priced film similar to his lower-budget hit, "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels." His new film, called "Snatch," is a complex caper-type story about a bunch of none-too-bright crooks chasing after a walnut-sized diamond.

Ritichie knows how to tell a story with narration, as well as visually. He doesn't overdo the narration, either, using it to introduce characters and to set up key turning points in the story. The two main characters, Turkish (Jason Statham of "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels") and Tommy (Stephen Graham), spend most of the film being knocked around by forces outside of their control. Turkish and Tommy are two small-time fight promoters who get caught up in a dangerous game of "whose got the diamond? with various organized crime figures.

Ritchie, the director, proves very able, using some of the same techniques as Darren Aronofsky did in "Requiem for a Dream." One editing technique, in particular, was very reminiscent of the earlier film. It consisted of a rapid series of cuts showing a hood named Cousin Avi (Dennis Farina of "Reindeer Games"), throwing back a shot while zooming from the U.S. to England on a Concorde jetliner. This oft-repeated sequence reminded me of a similar one Aronofsky used repeatedly in "Requiem" to show drug addicts getting high. This kind of ultra-rapid editing probably wouldn't make any sense at all to anyone not conditioned by years of watching television commercials, which use similar techniques.

Ritchie also uses some unusual camera angles. I recall one sequence of a couple of guys walking through a kind of junk yard. The scene was shot at a very low angle, showing nothing above the men's knees. It looked like a steadycam shot, where the camera kept moving ahead of the men's feet so you could see everything they stepped over and around. The scene gives the viewer a good look at an environment not usually shown, but which indicates much about the territory the men are entering. In another scene, a boxer in a match goes flying through the air. Instead of hitting the canvas, however, he is shown hitting a deep pool of water, and the camera is under water looking up at the man as he hits the surface. This little fantasy creates a nice effect. Ritchie clearly has an excellent eye for visual effects and camera angles.

Turkish and Tommy eventually hook up with a tough Irish gypsy boxer named "One Punch" Mickey O'Neil (Brad Pitt of "Fight Club"). All of them are threatened by a nasty organized crime boss named Brick Top (Alan Ford of "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels"). Also caught up in the chase are Boris The Blade (Rade Serbedzija of "Space Cowboys"), Cousin Avi and a bunch of small time hoods. Benicio Del Toro also appears in this movie as "Franky Four Fingers," but his screen time is very limited.

There is very little in the way of character development in this film. Since almost every character in the movie is either a murderer, or a murder victim, who cares where the diamond ends up? I couldn't work up much sympathy for any of the characters, including the dog. Dennis Farina's character (Cousin Avi, a Jewish New York mobster) is pretty entertaining though. At one point, a harried Avi goes through customs in New York. When asked if he has anything to declare, he replies, "Yeah. Don't go to England." He also has a funny remark about British slang, noting that the English, who invented the language, ought to be more easily understood. Pitt also does a good job as Mickey O'Neil, with an in-joke impenetrable "Pikey" (Irish Gypsy or Traveller) accent.

The mixture of violence and humor is odd. There are some good jokes in the film. The violence is not all that graphic. Most of it happens off-screen. If the violence was on-screen, the movie would not be funny at all. As it was, it is still unsettling. The film is yet another Tarantino-like gangster film. It is often said that Quentin Tarantino revived the gangster genre. If that is so, I wished he had picked another genre more worthy of resuscitation. According to the film's production notes, the screenplay for this film (written by Ritchie) was written before the release of "Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels," a very similar film, when Ritchie was still in full gangster mode. This gives me hope he has more than one mode. This film rates a C+.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2001 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)