R for being pretty much all around offensive. There's just an abundance of vulgar language, which probably shouldn't be the sticking point in my head right now. Really, I should be talking about just the violence and the criminal activity throughout. But this movie also screams the incorrectness of 2000, with cultural insensitivities, homophobic jokes, animal cruelty, and other taboos that we thought were oh-so-hilarious back-in-the-day. R.
DIRECTOR: Guy Richie
This is going to be a blog that contains an unpopular opinion. I think the demographic who absolutely loves this movie isn't going to take the fact that I don't really care for it quite poorly. See, Snatch is one of those movies that people are obsessed with. I never got into it. I remember always thinking that it didn't look that great, so I never sat down and watched it. If you want to take it a step further, this movie probably aged pretty poorly, all things considered. Between the fact that this movie wasn't exactly made for me coupled with the fact that I'm watching it in 2021 for the first time, I'm going to say that this is exactly the movie I thought it would be and that I'm fairly disappointed.
It sounds like I'm riding a pretty hard confirmation bias right now. I thought that the movie was going to suck, so thus it did. Besides the fact that Snatch has always been part of our cinematic cultural lexicon, it was on my Must-See-Movies List scratch-off poster. That poster is almost entirely scratched off, so I felt like it was my due diligence to finally watch the movie. But I have been known to go into a movie with a bad attitude and come out to enjoy it. I mean, while I'm not the biggest fan, I actually enjoy The Fast and the Furious movies now. But I can't deny that, as I write this, that I'm fighting a pretty intense hipster vibe to be too good for a movie that I mentally consider to be basic. Part of it can be attributed to the fact that this is a bro-movie. It's in the same category as something like The Boondock Saints, where it just kind of reads as extreme and gross.
I really got over Guy Richie with his Sherlock Holmes movies. I know that he did the live action version of Aladdin and that was actually pretty fun. It's just that he screams all style over substance. Sure, Snatch offers a moderately okay story. It seems more complicated than it it is, but that I really don't have a problem with. Richie actually kind of succeeds in making a storyline that kind of all ties into all the disparate elements of the film. However, I knew pretty early on when he decided to make title cards for all of the characters that Richie was hiding behind an attempt to be cool instead of just being a storyteller. He did the same thing in Sherlock Holmes, having Robert Downey, Jr. plan out his fight sequences. It's all this hiding and not enough being in the moment. Is this to say that stylized directing is bad? Not at all. It's just that Richie puts every bad impulse of the late-'90s / early-2000s into one film. The cuts are quick. People swear a lot. It thrives on its irreverence. While I care about the characters, none of them feel all that human. It's that rock star attitude that really turns me off for a lot of the movie.
And, as part of that, there are scenes that just seem like they would be fun to make, but don't actually contribute to the story as a whole. One of the most memorable parts of the movie is the dog eating a squeaky toy whole. Cool. I find that funny too. But the squeak doesn't really tie into the overall plot. It is alluded to time and again and the only thing that it really offers is the knowledge that the dog will eat anything, including a diamond. There are easier ways to get to that result. Maybe if the squeak offered something more than a joke, I could get behind that. The entire getting-dressed-as-Orthodox-Jews and talking about the vulgarities of Catholicism thing doesn't really hold water. We have all these character quirks and none of them are tied to the characters' motivations. Take, for example, Franky Four Fingers. Franky Four Fingers has a bizarre dialect. He is obsessed with gambling and has gotten in trouble for botching jobs because of his gambling obsession. He also is really into costuming, filling his vans with disguises that he could use for future jobs. But does gambling actually get him in trouble? Nope. Do these disguises lead to his undoing? Nope. Richie sets up all these foibles, but none of them actually mean anything. He's taken out before the story even really begins by a trio of bumbling thieves.
So all of the discussions and world building stuff really is there for coolness's sake, not for actually having meaningful interaction. This kind of causes the protagonist, Turkish, to have little actual investment in his own storyline. Things kind of just happen to Turkish, but Turkish has little choice over how things are going to go. He fails at the bet, which he kind of believed he was going to do. But the rest is him just walking around confidently and being clever at people. This cleverness actually solves any of his problems. It's just him saying funny things a lot without directly affecting his sphere of influence.
Honestly, my favorite part of the movie was Bullet-Tooth Tony. Yeah, his origin story didn't really help his plot that much, but I like the complexity given to his random hitman coupled with Cousin Avi. They have this fun juxtaposition and I kind of wish the movie was about these guys. I find Vinny, Sol, and Tyrone against Tony and Avi a far more compelling story than Turkish, who almost seems removed from the story. Why couldn't the movie be about Vinny, Sol, and Tyrone? These characters are hapless characters in a world full of clever one liners. They are potentially the only sympathetic characters in the movie who actually make a bit of sense. They aren't awesome at everything. They are the only characters who are actually fallible throughout the film and that makes them the most interesting characters to watch. But instead, we end up leapfrogging from character to character, trying to remember who is related to whom and what individual character arcs actually are.
Is it weird that Brad Pitt's Mickey is front-and-center on every poster? Like, I like Mickey as a character and I like that he comes across as pretty human, considering he's a tank. But there's this meta element to the movie that says he's clearly Brad Pitt playing a stereotype. It's really awkward. I'm trying to read up on the word "Pikey" because of this movie and it seems like it is pretty offensive to be making fun of this group of people, as proven by the Top Gear folk. But the only reason that we really have any investment in Mickey is because Brad Pitt is a famous American superstar in a movie full of Brits. It reads more like a novelty than a serious character choice. Yeah, it's fun. But like much of this movie, it feels more fun than risky.
It's just that this movie didn't have a lot of substance to me. While I was watching it, I questioned why I always dug Ocean's Eleven, another heist movie (starring Brad Pitt) that oozed style, over Snatch. And a lot of that came from the fact that Ocean's Eleven feels effortless. It never really feels like Ocean's Eleven is compensating for the problems of its own script. And I don't think Guy Richie needed to worry about plot issues. All it really needs was a simplification of the story to make it work a bit more.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.