Author’s note: I wrote this before the release of Ritchie’s “reimagining” of Sherlock Holmes. Whether my conclusion holds true, I leave to you, the reader.
Guy Ritchie‘s second film Snatch is so close to his previous movie that it could be renamed Lock, Stock, Two Smoking Barrels, and Brad Pitt. This is not to say that Snatch is a bad film; its breakneck pacing and slick camera movement make it very enjoyable. Also interesting is the glimpse into the social hierarchy in gangster London where everyone “fuckin’ hates pikeys.”
Jon Harris, the editor of Snatch, did a superb job in juggling the writhing ends of Ritchie’s caper. For example, in the coursing sequence, he compares Turkish and Tommy to Tyrone by presenting parallel action, cutting back and forth between the rabbit eluding a pair of hounds and Tyrone eluding a pair of Brick Top’s thugs. While the rabbit escapes, Tyrone is not so lucky. Because Turkish bet that the rabbit would lose its life, he and Tommy owe Mickey in addition to Brick Top. To borrow a phrase from Tommy, the three men are all “proper fucked.” Additionally, Harris’s use of montage and jump cuts echo the quick-witted dialogue and the film’s urgency.
Tim Maurice-Jones, the film’s cinematographer, whips his camera all over the place, aggressively panning around Frankie Four Fingers during the film’s opening heist scene. Later, a long take follows Mickey into the boxing ring. The use of a non-track camera adds a human element to the scene, as the camera jostles among the confusion in the crowd. With such dramatic movement, the camera calls attention to itself in a fashion similar to Michael Ballhaus’s work on Goodfellas, which was undoubtedly intentional.
Most interesting to me is the social dynamic among the various groups in the London underground where an old white guy stands as the kingpin and low-class Irish migrants act as the local pariah caste. While many of the characters work against each other in some way or another, they can commiserate in their hatred for pikeys. Beyond that, most of the characters mistrust Boris, a Russian living in London. It turns out that this is for good reason, as Boris proves himself to be as duplicitous as the pikeys. The bottom line is that none of the characters are free from fault, except for perhaps Mickey’s mother, but even she knowingly allowed Mickey to hustle Tommy and Gorgeous George.
Although somewhat derivative of others’ and Ritchie’s previous work, Snatch shows a side to the London crime scene rarely seen by Americans. It employs dynamic editing and cinematography to great success, but it is very similar to Ritchie’s first film. That Guy Ritchie retread his own territory in Snatch suggests that he may have hit his artistic climax with Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels—a theory further supported by Ritchie’s lack of success following Snatch, which was bolstered largely by Brad Pitt’s appearance in the film.