Snatch stuns as Ritchie’s sophomore success

Critics and general naysayers, start your engines. Snatch (Screen Gems) the new film written and directed by British sensation Guy Ritchie, is, without a doubt, the spitting image of his first movie, Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels.

And that’s why we like it.

Ritchie is one of the lucky few directors to score a major hit with his first feature. Now, with major studio support, an increased budget and mainstream promotion, he has perfected the style of his first release. Unlike director Joe Berlinger, who came to fame with The Blair Witch Project then released the atrocious Blair Witch Project 2, Ritchie need not worry about Snatch being a sophomore letdown.

Prior success gave Ritchie the chance to cast a few Hollywood names this time. Brad Pitt (Fight Club) plays a Gypsy bare-knuckle boxer, managing to wrap his tongue around one of the most warped accents since Keith Richards. Benicio Del Toro (Traffic), an actor in his prime who appears in two other movies playing in theaters, carries off the absurd role of a Hasidic gangster with a gambling problem.

Following in the footsteps of such Travolta resurrection flicks as Get Shorty and Pulp Fiction, Snatch intertwines a variety of characters, subplots and simple coincidences to create a constantly engaging story. An underground boxing league, a ring of Jewish diamond thieves and a caravan sale are but a few bizarre circumstances that make Snatch a masterpiece in its own field.

Similar to Lock, a great amount of Snatch‘s energy comes from Ritchie’s excellent camerawork and selective choices of music. Like Superfly and other blaxploitation films of the ’70s, Snatch uses quick cuts from different angles to enliven action sequences, and is boosted by a well-selected soundtrack with songs ranging from classic ska to a track by hit Massive Attack.

Snatch starts off in low gear, as Ritchie introduces a mind-boggling number of characters, each one intrinsic to the plot’s development. Colorful characters, with names like “Boris the Blade,” “Four-Fingered Freddy” and “Gorgeous George” are generally one-dimensional comic-book criminals, each with a small background story about how they got their names.

Ritchie realizes the humor in the crime genre, and has no qualms about gently ripping his own field of expertise. Almost as soon as he has set his characters up, Ritchie starts knocking them down, nearly in the same order as they were introduced. A bonus of an ensemble cast, no matter how likeable a character may be, there are at least a half dozen other characters that can take his place.

Ritchie’s storytelling ability and directorial skills are unimpeachable, but unfortunately for him, his recent marriage to Madonna has drawn both good and bad publicity. The exposure will not hurt Snatch’s box office draw, but it might tarnish his image as a director. Already it has been announced that for his next film he plans to cast none another than his wife in a starring role. Fans of Ritchie’s work so far can only hope that his judgment remains intact.

It is a tough call whether one can say Snatch ends happily. True, the most despicable characters get their comeuppance, while others take vengeance on past injustices. In a world of criminals, it’s not the good guys who come out on top, just the slightly better guys.

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