I consider Snatch (2000) as the British Pulp Fiction (1994). This obviously means I loved this film. It is unique, entertaining and unforgettable, just like Tarantino's epic. Yet, despite many similarities, it is not a mere carbon copy. It is a violent, vulgar and funny masterpiece. And it is also extremely quotable!
Snatch is directed by Guy Ritchie (then Mr. Madonna and now more famous for directing the two Sherlock Holmes films) and was released on August 23, 2000 in the UK. The film was made on a small budget of $10,000,000 and grossed an impressive $84,000,000 worldwide, making the movie the most successful of Ritchie's career at that point.
Critics agreed that Snatch was special and it is considered a cult classic today. Let's see what makes it so great! (Spoilers ahead...)
The film's plot is at first sight extremely confusing. There are simply too many characters and subplots. I won't even try to summarize it. Instead, let's look at what our dear friend Wikipedia says about it :
Set in the London criminal underworld, the film contains two intertwined plots: one dealing with the search for a stolen diamond, the other with a small-time boxing promoter (Jason Statham) who finds himself under the thumb of a ruthless gangster (Alan Ford) who is ready and willing to have his subordinates carry out severe and sadistic acts of violence.
The fact that the plot is quite confusing might turn off a few viewers from the film. However, I still felt like there were no loose ends after the film ended and it remained an extremely satisfying viewing experience. How is that possible ? Guy Ritchie's scipt and directing style makes it all easy to understand. Or at least you feel like you understand what is going on. The selling point of the film is not its plot but its style. And it is terrific. All the trademark Guy Ritchie elements are there. This means the film is incredibly fast paced and we get plenty of violence, freeze frames, jump cuts, time warping, voice overs, filtered scenes, etc. Snatch would have been a very boring film if we removed all those elements as its plot is not very original or interesting on its own (some critics pointed out it was a rehash of his previous film, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels). The way it unwinds as thought by Ritchie is what makes the film stand out. However, you need to remain concentrated on what is going on as the film doesn't take you by the hand to explain you what you see on the screen and the pacing is extremely fast. This is the kind of film in which anything can happen as it doesn't follow Hollywood's usual rules. For instance, a character we got to care about can die in a completely random and surprising way. Don't worry if you're confused by the plot. It simply doesn't matter so much.
The film features an ensemble cast that includes Brad Pitt, Jason Statham, Benicio del Toro, Rade Serbedzija, Vinnie Jones., Alan Ford and others. Unlike other films that have an ensemble cast, Snatch doesn't seem to have a main character. All are almost equally important and have the similar amount of screen time. Luckily, Guy Ritchie made them all extremely colourful and interesting. He made us care about all of them by integrating enough character development without making it obviously boring (it is incredible to see all that is packed in only 104 minutes of film). The movie is set in the London criminal underworld and the universe created by Ritchie is vividly believable. All actors give great performances, especially Brad Pitt and Alan Ford. Both are incredibly funny. Brad Pitt is Mickey O'Neil, an Irish traveler boxer and trader in caravans with an accent so thick we can't understand a thing he says. Every line of his made me laugh. He gets plenty of boxing scenes that reminded me of 1999's Fight Club (perhaps that's why Pitt was hired...). Alan Ford is Brick Top, a sadistic crime boss. His line delivery is unique and he really seems to be menacing. The only complaint I could have is the casting of Jason Statham. He is the closest to what we could call a main character but I personally thought his performance was quite forgettable. Statham is a great physical actor but he seems wooden in most scenes and rather bland (but that's a strictly personal opinion). If I had to recast the film, I would choose Clive Owen for the role. Apart from that, the film is pretty flawless.
Guy Ritchie is master at integrating music in his films. The musical choices are all around excellent and fit the movie's scenes very well. Mix those tracks with Ritchie's directing style and you have some unforgettable scenes, the most striking to me being the hare chase scene, which features Mirwais Ahmadzai 's Disco Science. The track is very special on its own, but Ritchie uses it to create pure cinematic magic (see the vdeo link below). Mirwais is better known for his production work on Madonna's albums starting with 2000's Music up to 2005's Confessions On A Dancefloor. His solo work is sadly underrated but is worth checking out if you like his particular sound. Other songs from Oasis, Massive Attack and Madonna are featured in the film and its accompanying soundtrack. Madonna's 1983 classic track Lucky Star is used to funny effect with Vinnie Jones' character commenting on how much he likes the track, perhaps a nod to a similar scene to Quantin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs. Guy Ritchie was then married to the Queen of Pop and the two would go on to collaborate on his next film, the disastrous Swept Away (2002). Ritchie also directed the excellent music video for her What It Feels Like For A Girl track and an hilarious BMW commercial in 2001 in which she plays a bitchy pop star. Both are worth checking out. John Murphy is composing Snatch's orchestral score which I don't remember making any impression on me, perhaps due to the constant use of songs thoughout the film. Richie's use of music in Snatch helps make the viewing experience even more special and is definitely a strong point of the film.
Watch it !
Snatch deserves its reputation as a modern cult classic. I believe it remains Ritchie's best film on every level. his directing is amazing and the screenplay he wrote is incredibly funny. Following the success of the film, his career took a nosedive, with Swept Away (2002), Revolver (2005) and RocknRolla (2008) all failing to match Snatch's success. Then came the first Sherlock Holmes film in 2009 and Ritchie was hot again, the film grossing 524 000 000$ worldwide. However, Snatch features all the director's trademark elements and feels like a much more personal project than a big franchise film like Sherlock Holmes and its 2011 sequel, which Ritchie didn't write or produce. Don't miss this film. It's a diamond in the rough.
Thank you for reading!