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Empire List #466: Snatch

Ever watch a really cool trailer for a movie, tell yourself you should see it when it comes out, but you just never get around to watching it? That was the case with “Snatch” Guy Ritchie’s gangster movie that put him on the map outside of the U.K. I saw the trailer around the year 2000 in Peru, loved the one-liners, kept hearing people quoting it for the next ten years, but just never bothered to actually rent the damn thing. Luckily for me, my brother is just about as big a movie addict as I am and this one time when I was at my mom’s place in Quebec City during one of my breaks from university, he just so happened to have a copy in his ever-expanding collection. It just goes to prove that some of the best things in life are free. Just remember to say “thanks.”

I had been to London once before seeing this movie, but I had never seen any people who resembled the characters in the film since it takes place in the criminal underworld, not a place most tourists like to visit. Whether or not it is an accurate portrayal of that world is debatable, but many people will agree that it is an entertaining depiction.

Most of the characters have amusing nicknames which real gangsters might find too flashy: Jason Statham is a boxing promoter called Turkish, Benicio Del Toro is a thief called Frankie Four-Fingers, Rade Šerbedžija plays a Russian arms dealer called Boris The Blade, Vinnie Jones is a hit man called Bullet Tooth Tony, Alan Ford plays local mob boss Brick Top, and Dennis Farina plays a violent jeweller from New York who goes by Cousin Avi. Even Farina’s character points out this is a bit confusing. When he first meets Tony he asks him whether to call him Tooth or Tony, to which Tony replies “You can call me Susan if you like.” Smart-ass.

Some of these characters never meet since the plot involves two separate events. The first begins when Frankie steals a massive diamond in Antwerp. The robbery goes without a hitch, except that since Frankie is a compulsive gambler, hence the four fingers, it is only a matter of time before he gets into trouble and loses the diamond in London. Meanwhile Turkish and his partner Tommy (Stephen Graham) get in business with gangster Brick Topp when they convince him to allow bookies to bet on the fights of their boxer Gorgeous George (Adam Fogerty). Unfortunately George is injured by yet another character with a strange name, “Pikey” Mickey O’Neil, an Irish nomad who just so happens to be a champion bare-knuckle fighter himself. The problem is that Pickey won’t throw fights when asked, which is kind of a requirement in illegal fights run by the mob.

Events and characters involving both the diamond and the fights intertwine throughout the story, mostly because of unlikely coincidences and situations. At one point there are three cars driving down the same street and in those three cars are characters who have no idea they are running on a parallel course. A chain reaction occurs when Tommy, sitting in the passenger’s seat of the first car, throws out a carton of milk out of his window causing the other two cars to crash. It’s like that Paul Haggis movie “Crash,” only with more guns and humour.

Some of the humour comes from Brad Pitt’s character. Pitt might seem an unlikely choice to play an Irish fighter, but the issue of his accent is mute since nobody, not even the locals, can understand a word of what he is saying. Apparently Irish nomads speak their own lingo, which can make business negotiations rather complicated.

The ineptitude of some of these criminals also draws a lot of laugh. When thieves try to rob Vinnie Jones’ character with fake guns, Jones delivers a long monologue to point out that the morons are waving around pistols with the word “Replica” written on the side, whereas his sidearm clearly has the words “Desert Eagle” written on it. Time for a tactical retreat.

Bonus laughs if you watch “Snatch” on DVD since it comes with a special “Pikey Subtitles Option” which translates what Brad Pitt is saying. Although during one scene even the subtitles are confused and all you get is a question mark.


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