In honor of Guy Ritchie‘s The Gentlemen now out in theaters, let’s take a look back at the film that I personally see as his finest accomplishment to date: Snatch. This is truly an underrated film of action and power many should reconsider in their catalog.
Most audiences are familiar with Ritchie’s action-heavy Sherlock Holmes and his re-imagination of the live-remade Aladdin. However, back in 1998, Ritchie burst onto the scene with a fresh, violent tale set in London’s underworld called Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels. After putting the indie film scene on notice, Ritchie followed that also underrated movie by doubling up on the star power with his magnum opus.
Snatch, as it stands, is a fast, funny, rollicking crime caper, but many of the reasons it succeeds is the outstanding cast.
We see Brad Pitt in top form as a wildly erratic bare-knuckle boxer, Benicio Del Toro as a shifty thief, the menacing Vinnie Jones as a gun for hire, and Dennis Farina as a no-nonsense jeweler. Amidst this epic cast of zany characters, there’s Jason Statham playing the central character of it all.
Before Jason Statham rose to fame in blockbuster action franchises like The Transporter or Fast and the Furious, he really kicked off his career by starring in Ritchie’s first two films.
My favorite aspect of Statham’s portrayal in Snatch is his knack for snappy delivery and being surprisingly effective at dry but hilarious humor (especially for a “tough guy”) . Rounding out the cast is a blink and you’ll miss it role for Jason Flemyng, the always memorable Rade Serbedzija as a “bullet-dodging” Russian, and a hilarious performance by Lennie James. Most audiences may remember James from his incredibly raw and emotional portrayal of Morgan in The Walking Dead.
Where do I even start with the outlandish visual styling of Mr. Ritchie? The hilarious opening scene seen through a set of CCTVs? The music video-esque opening credit montage that introduces the eclectic cast? The hectic editing, fast cuts, and extreme zooms on objects to reveal something as small as the words on the side of a gun?
These are all hallmarks of Guy Ritchie, each should be acclaimed for its originality in filmmaking.
I’ve seen some film critics attack Ritchie of “over-directing” and overusing these techniques, but one thing I think is undeniable from either side of the fence is just how cool Ritchie’s films look and feel. There is no denying his trademark flair.
His more mainstream releases like Sherlock Holmes or King Arthur: Legend of The Sword show glimpses of this. Personally, I absolutely love his style and can’t get enough of the breakneck pace and trippy visuals he conjures. The more the merrier, as far as I’m concerned.
Some movies are much more enjoyable when going in “blind” (as in, not knowing what to expect). For anyone that hasn’t seen Snatch yet, all you would need to know, if you needed to know anything, is that it is about a diamond.
That’s it. After that, just sit back and enjoy the ride. Literally.
The script moves at a blistering pace with quotable, laughable lines coming one after the other and smoothly switches between parallel story lines that enhance each other. Much like his acclaimed counterpart, Quentin Tarantino, Guy Ritchie excels at bringing together different characters and seemingly separate plot points to hilarious effect.
Sometimes it’s being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Other times, it’s a matter of just being in over your head.
I was lucky enough to see Snatch in theaters upon its release 20 years ago. It is one of the most enjoyable film experiences I’ve ever had. The speed of the dialogue and the rich details make repeat viewings both rewarding and enjoyable. The sheer energy of the story grabs you from the opening credits. The ridiculous and sometimes deadpan humor is infectious. Not to mention one of Brad Pitt’s most bonkers performances of all- time.
Anyone who’s willing to give Snatch a watch is truly in for a treat.