It's one thing to surprise the world with a superb first feature film, following it up with an equally impressive second one is much harder still. That's exactly what Guy Ritchie managed to do with Snatch though. Three years after Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels Ritchie released his second film, which would go on to become an ultimate fan favorite. Upon watching it again this week, it's not all that hard to see why. Through the years Snatch has lost little (if any) of its appeal.
Compared to Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch is a little darker and grittier. It's still very much a crime comedy dressed up with outrageous characters and overflowing with foul language, but it comes across as a little less naive. There are several key moments that strip away the laughter, baring a nastier side of Ritchie, though these moments are never more than glimpses hidden away in a puddle of goofy silliness.
For me, the film's main appeal lies with the delivery of the dialogues. Ritchie is a decent writer and there are definitely some funny monologues and conversations here, but without the thick, British accents it still wouldn't amount to much. From Pitt's pikey accent and Statham's overstated accentuation to Ewen Bremner's tangled excuse for a language, the delivery of the lines is crucial to the comedy and nobody has mastered the art of delivery direction like Ritchie.
The plot is once again pretty convoluted, but all in all it's easy enough to keep track of what's going on. At the center there's a big ass diamond, circling around the stone are 4 or 5 groups of criminals trying to get their hands on the gem. Things get a little messier when the different groups' paths intersect, especially when this unearths a couple of feuds and old grievances, but Ritchie keeps a good overview of the action as to not make things more confusing then they actually are.
Snatch turned out to be a rather dark and gloomy-looking film. Even though Ritchie's characters are very colorful, the color palette he applies isn't. Lots of greys, blues and dark greens make up the world of Snatch. The framing and editing on the other hand are energetic and playful, breaching the dullness of the color palette. Ritchie has a lot of visual flair and doesn't hold back, even when most of the film is just endless conversation.
The soundtrack is a collection of pretty well-know pop tracks, complemented by some high octane electronic derivatives (mostly drum 'n bass-like music that resides in the background). I'm not a fan of 10CC, Oasis or even Massive Attack, but Ritchie integrates the music well with the rest of the film. While it's not an exceptional soundtrack in any way, it does the job.
The cast is where the film truly shines. Ritchie assembled an amazing group of actors, with Jason Statham, Vinnie Jones and Brad Pitt spearheading the film. True star of the film is Alan Ford (as Brick Top) though. He truly comes off as a menacing, filth-spewing, heartless gangster. A man to be feared. If that wasn't enough, Ritchie also had a superb secondary cast to his disposal, with great roles for Benicio Del Toro, Jason Flemyng, Lennie James and a hilarious Ewen Bremner cameo. And quite remarkably, there almost no women on the pay roll, safe for some very small parts. You don't see that very often.
Snatch is a very manly film. Testosterone levels are through the roof, cussing is elevated to an art form, there are some big ass guns, a couple of rough fist fights and plenty of macho behavior. At the same time, the characters are all pretty big losers, acting dumb, saying stupid things and getting themselves knee-deep into trouble. It's this friction that makes Snatch such an entertaining experience. Because of that Snatch turned out to be a pretty talky film, which might clash with people's expectations, but since that's where its strength lies it's hardly an issue.
Ritchie perfected his signature style in this film. Lots of visual trickery, a solid soundtrack, spiffy dialogues, a convoluted plot and a big cast full of colorful characters. All of that combined with thick British accents makes for a superb piece of entertainment. It won't be everyone's cup of tea, but if you like testosterone-fuelled crime comedies than Snatch is one of the modern classics you simply cannot skip. Just don't expect anything subtle.