DVD - Image A Sound A Extras A
BD - Image C Sound A Extras A
starring Benicio Del Toro, Dennis Farina, Brad Pitt, Rade Sherbedgia
written and directed by Guy Ritchie
by Walter Chaw Guy Ritchie's sophomore effort Snatch opens with a hyperkinetic homage to the first violent robbery of Ringo Lam's City on Fire and continues by aping the slick mod-cool of the British gangster films of the late-'60s and early-'70s. It is a bizarre beast that borrows, steals, re-invents, and winks knowingly when its hand is caught in the imagistic cookie jar. Guy Ritchie laughs at your erudition. He's in it for the money shots--a new champion of the gangster drama as pornography: ultimately empty but undeniably efficient.
Snatch is a street-smart, wry little adventure that features a few marvellous genre performances to excuse its occasional excesses. If you can hold on through the frantic introduction of characters, it rewards with a serendipitously-plotted trip through the entropy-bound world of two-bit hoods and psychopathic pig-tending gangsters. Those looking for a direct line of ascendancy need to look away from Tarantino--the filmmaker to whom Ritchie is most often compared--and towards films like Peter Yates's Robbery, John Mackenzie's The Long Good Friday, and, especially, the 1969 caper The Italian Job.
The plot is too labyrinthine to describe in detail. Sufficed to say that Snatch is a heist movie involving several groups of people interested in obtaining a giant 85-carat diamond and gambling on illegal, unlicensed boxing matches. With a plot so Byzantine, the film lives and dies by what it elicits from its cast and, to that end, Snatch is dazzlingly accomplished. Brad Pitt is extraordinary as One-Punch Mickey, a mush-mouthed "Pikey" (a U.K. version of white trash) who, over the desire to purchase a new trailer for his ma, becomes embroiled in the fallout of the diamond burgle. A rigged bout between bare-knuckle champion Mickey and a 240-pound behemoth is possibly the best representation of a boxing match since those found in Scorsese's Raging Bull: all style and muscle, blood and gristle, fast bags and quick jabs, the gentle art for the Fight Club generation. Similarly accomplished are Alan Ford's crazed fight promoter Brick Top, Vinnie Jones's bullet-toothed soccer-enforcer, Benicio Del Toro's thieving Frankie Four Fingers, and Jason Statham's blue-collar thug.
There are roughly as many women in this film as in your average Turkish prison--Snatch is very much a testosterone-fuelled experience riddled with references to the size of certain courage connoting external gonads, the threat, and actual abuse, of the self-same appendages, and unhealthy fixations with the size and power of firearms. A good clue as to the relative success of each of the plotlines of the film, in fact, can be garnered from the usefulness of each character's gun. Despite its epic ambition and cast of dozens, Snatch resolves itself expertly: from an ingenious car crash of an intersection of the various plotlines to a running joke involving a particularly hungry (and occasionally randy) dog, every one of the film's details has a delightful outcome.
Snatch is a throwback to a different era and ethic in movies. It's engaging and witty and about nothing more than greed, manhood, God's sense of humour, and itself. It is fantastically pure cinema, a work that continues the British gangster new wave of three decades previous and, in most ways, surpasses it with its audacious technical courage. Snatch is the British hipster version of the late Douglas Adams's Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: a cascading series of happenstances and kismet-collisions that outline a dread symmetry in existence. It is more than one has a right to expect from any one entertainment; far from being too little story, it's almost too much. Hang on for its post-modern ride; it's a pleasure.
The Special Edition DVD of Snatch sports a fantastic widescreen (1.85:1) transfer (sharing space with a fullscreen version) that preserves Ritchie's muted green and blue shades along with the film's projected aspect ratio. The edges are sharp, the images distinct, and the print is about as close to mint as I've ever seen. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is bombastic, sporting numerous atmospheric flourishes and providing a fully fleshed platform for Ritchie's stupendous funk/techno soundtrack. Ritchie follows Tarantino and the Wachowski Brothers in taking his musical cues from Martin Scorsese's crime operas. There are few directors working today with a better understanding of how music can instantly establish mood and edify character when used correctly--and just as quickly sink characterization and atmosphere when used poorly. A pair of boxing sequences serves as showcases for not only the fast-cycling video, but also the cunning use of rear-channel effects and tracking noise.
The two-disc presentation isn't quite as packed as, say, Se7en's, but it's exceptional all the same. Snatch's first disc offers a commentary from director Guy Ritchie and producer Matthew Vaughn that is bristling with witty repartee and amusing anecdotes. Ritchie's vernacular and verve confirms his authorship of the similarly animated Snatch script, and Vaughn functions as a nice understated foil to Ritchie's occasionally profane reminiscences. The highlight of the chock-a-block yakker comes in various yarns about an unruly dog actor that was constantly engaged in "raping and butchering" its human co-stars. Ritchie, at the occasional urging of "the men in suits," offers a ton of background information about editing, interrupted by some chocolate-bar munching, and the stray parroting of favourite lines comes off as charming rather than self-indulgent. It is one of the best commentaries for any DVD, joining the Carpenter/Russell and Campbell/Raimi interplays as reasons in and of themselves for buying a player.
A "Stealing Stones" feature works a little like the pill feature of The Matrix and Akira, or, more to the point, New Line's fantastic Infinifilm format. Pressing the "enter" button when a diamond appears on the screen allows the viewer to see a scene that has been deleted from that point in the film. Additionally, a "Pikey" subtitle track allows one to follow the gibberish spewed by Brad Pitt, which, arguably, takes away half of the fun of those scenes. Puzzling though it sounds, the subtitles can only be accessed through the menu. Speaking of which, the design of the main menu is as cool and functional as Snatch itself.
Disc two includes the deleted scenes accessible only through the "Stealing Stones" option of disc one, complete with Ritchie and Vaughn's commentary, and three storyboard comparisons that are fairly useless considering Ritchie's off-the-cuff directorial style. A twenty-five minute "making-of" documentary shows the director playing endless games of chess while bantering with his DP and cast, general horsing around, all intercut with scenes from the film that are narrated now and again with brio if not a great deal of insight. Most refreshing is the ample presence of an affable Brad Pitt, who mentions how he became involved with the production (a phone call) and the day that Amnesty International picketed his on-set trailer because it was unfit for human habitation!
A video montage of stills resolves itself as a fairly-to-exceedingly uninteresting feature while television spots (3) and theatrical trailers (2) of varying length and quality hold some small historical interest if little else. Also on board are trailers for Go, Dogma, The Professional, The Lady From Shanghai, Dr. Strangelove,and John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars--none of which have much to do with Snatch, pointing to the difficulty of classifying Guy Ritchie's sprawling style. Originally published: August 17, 2001.
THE BLU-RAY DISC
by Bill Chambers Snatch comes to Blu-ray in a thoroughly mediocre 1.85:1, 1080p presentation. Just an educated guess, but it looks like DVNR was slathered on thick and the sharpness dialled way up to offset this, resulting in thick detail as well as banding artifacts in any area of the image where light fluctuates. Blacks are a sooty grey, which, along with the muted colours, may have been intentional, yet because there is absolutely nothing dynamic about this transfer (shadows crush into murk), something was clearly lost in the translation. I expect more fidelity from Sony, though the 5.1 DTS-HD MA track is basically unimpeachable. (If anything, it's so clear that the joke of Brad Pitt being unintelligible is harder to get.) Joining all the extras of the SE DVD are two BD Live features: the studio's now-standard "movieIQ" trivia stream; and an interactive "cutting room" that allows users to mix and match samples of music and video. Rare for a Sony platter, there's only one preview, and it's--you guessed it--the studio's deathless "Blu-ray Disc is High-Definition!" promo. Originally published: November 23, 2009.