Snatch

There’s a fundamental difference between the extreme violence in movies like, say, Hannibal and movies like Snatch. In the former, the gruesomeness has more than just shock value; it serves the characters, it furthers the plot, it has a workable purpose. In the latter, it’s just there, making the audience cringe in disgust and having no intention of being anything but pointlessly sadistic. It’s hard to justify violence for its own sake and director Guy “Mr. Madonna” Ritchie predictably fails.

I’ll be honest: I couldn’t follow every thread of Snatch‘s manic story in one viewing, and there was no way I was going to subject myself to a second one, so the plot description here will be sketchy, at best. It involves something about fixing underground boxing matches in Britain. Brad Pitt shows up at one point as an incomprehensible Irish gypsy who also happens to be the bareknuckled boxing champion. The main characters — Turkish and his accomplice Tommy — somehow get Pitt to fight in the ring and chaos ensues.

There’s also a seemingly unrelated plotline having to do with a huge diamond that’s stolen, stolen again and stolen yet another time (give or take a heist or two). Dennis Farina stars as an American mobster (I think) who has to travel to England to keep track of where the damn thing is. Boris the Blade (Rade Serbedzija), a notorious “bullet-dodger” has his eyes on the gem as well, complicating the situation even further.

There’s just not a lot of fun to be had here. The plot is too convoluted, too filled with double-reversals and twists for us to turn our brains off, relax and watch Guy Ritchie’s kinetic visual style. If we do the opposite and try to follow the storyline, which is pretty much impossible anyway, we find ourselves cheated because there’s no payoff. Ritchie gives us nothing that’s worth the effort: none of the characters are likeable, which would be okay if any of them were at least human. No such luck; the people here are just lackeys to the rapidly moving camera.

This leaves the violence. Ritchie obviously thinks it is funny. I disagree. There is such a thing as black comedy, and humor arising from violence isn’t unfeasible, as the Coen brothers have often shown us. But for this to happen, I think there has to be a certain joie de vivre to the proceedings, a sense of silliness, a feeling that the director is winking at you from behind the camera. When John Goodman hit George Clooney over the head with a log in O Brother, Where Art Thou?, I laughed because the humor came from the situation and the characters. A guy hitting another guy with a log isn’t funny by itself; there has to be some sort of set-up and that’s what Snatch is missing.

Whenever Brad Pitt shows up, the movie suddenly becomes watchable. He’s the only truly funny thing about it; his incomprehensible Gypsy accent and overall demeanor bely his generally uncomedic reputation. I also liked Rade Serbedzija as Boris the Blade. The prominent actor, who remains inconspicuous despite roles in blockbusters like Space Cowboys, Mission: Impossible 2 and on a lesser scale Eyes Wide Shut and Stigmata, gets the most out of what is essentially an overblown caricature.

By the time Snatch, overlong at 102 minutes, drew to a close it had lost me, not only with its storyline (that happened about an hour before) but with just about everything. I wanted it all — the twists, the jarringly unfunny violence, the endless posturing of (most of) the actors — to please just stop. Please.

-- Eugene Novikov

One Comment

  1. Shane Creegan says:

    Your an idiot mate. Was this really that complicated? It was hardly timker tailor soldier spy! You should stick to the yankee movies, you clearly don’t understand humour on our side of the pond, just like Denis Farina’s charcater in the film has trouble understanding the Brits. Ha ha.

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Screening Log

Snitch

Ric Roman Waugh, 2013

Score: C

Side Effects

Steven Soderbergh, 2013

Score: C+

10 Years

Jamie Linden, 2012

Score: B-

The Place Beyond the Pines

Derek Cianfrance, 2013

Score: B+

Warm Bodies

Jonathan Levine, 2013

Score: C

Beautiful Creatures

Richard LaGravanese, 2013

Score: B-

The Window

Ted Tetzlaff, 1949

Score: B+

The Chase

Arthur Ripley, 1946

Score: B

Street of Chance

Jack Hively, 1942

Score: C

The Taste of Money

Im Sang-Soo, 2013

Score: C+

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