by Greg Muskewitz
Typically, you don't expect, or wouldn't want to find movies at the get-go of the new year that are so reprehensible that you suspect they will still stick around for your worst picks at the end of the year. And now, only three weeks into the 2001, I have two frontrunners: The House of Mirth, and the newbie this week, Snatch, as in to take away (and not a piece of anatomy in which I heard it bantered around as).Snatch is the complete opposite of everything Requiem for a Dream stood for as an artistic canvas, and as a form of style delegated by the directors. Director Guy Ritchie made his debut in 1998 with Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels, as did Requiem's Darren Aronofsky with Pi. I did not see Lock..., and although recently I have attempted to watch it before I saw this, any time I stopped by the video store, it was checked out on its extended five-day rentals. After seeing Snatch, I can hardly imagine myself bothering with it.
"...it's not style, it's style abuse!..."
What excuse of a story we get here is the caper debacle filmed in a wanna-be chic video style of the hunt for an 84-carat diamond. Several groups of gangsters, baddies, and all-around numbskulls are out to score it for themselves only to hopefully pawn off to the next for a big price. It's like a cartoon where one of the characters needs a bottle of potion, so as ten different characters are there, one grabs it from another, runs to the other end of the room, gets stepped on, has the potion "snatched" from them, etc.
That's it. There's your fancy plot. It's a British movie, full to the brim with thick brogues, plenty of colloquialisms ("Just because I throw the dog a bone doesn't mean I want to know how it tastes. Stop me while I'm walking again and I'll fucking cut off your jacobs!"), and foreign dark comedy. Ritchie and Snatch are so determined to be nothing but cool, hip, and in, it instead sets itself up for nothing but to fail, miserably. At one point, one of the characters shouts out, "You should never underestimate the predictability of stupidity." That's right; just because a movie looks bad, it means that it can be hundreds of times worse.
Whereas in Requiem for a Dream, Aronofsky plays with the visual aesthetic of storytelling by split-splicing, time-condensed shots, fish-eyes lens, discoloration, hallucination --the way he chooses to show it is an artistic force representing how those characters were experiencing it. Sure, some if it was show-off technique, but not like the way Snatch lays it on like a crustified creme. Quick zooms, twist flips shots, split-second editing, sound-accompanied super-ups, etc. It was like the nightmare version of what could have happened during Charlie's Angels.
Ritchie treats this as if it were some sitcom, intact with an opening credits sequence as the diamond is falsely passed around from one hand to the next, with characters' names against a colorful palette of neon, exhibiting some special attribute as to why they have the names they do. Snatch is so set out for haughty hipdom that it makes it its only goal. Forget about the cinematics, let's just be the trendsetters here, becoming an incongruous amalgam of Pulp Fiction, Go, Swingers, Austin Powers, The Limey, Jackie Brown, Get Shorty, Out of Sight, and so on and so forth. The "plot," as to call it by a nice name, is on such an overload, it is constantly resetting itself in order to cover all that has gone down in a Pulp Fiction/Jackie Brown-ish type of way, only it doesn't use it as a clever narrative device, it does it simply because with all the chaos and stupidity occurring, there is no other way to tell it. Ritchie practically campaigns for "cool" status, not counting his pop-culture references (though most don't work here for us Americans), but he practically makes us aware the entire movie that he is aware in his consciousness to personally place the hip couture in our sweaty hands. This guy is so positive and ego-bloated to believe that he's got the Midas Touch of movies, but what he does have is the equivalent of the Defecation Touch, turning anything of any value into pure, raunchy crap. Snatch is not style, it's an abuse of style, a wrecking ball of images, a hack script with showy, flashy performances.
Snatch is no fun, instead it is a headache of a ride, rambunctious, stentorian and execrable; it's like taking a ride in a colon in dire need of a colonoscopy. It's showing off for the sheer hell that it thinks it is cool, but with the minor exception of critics who think they're trendy, but are instead latently off the mark, and audiences who must vicariously live through the out-of-sight mentality, I don't see this as appealing.
Benicio Del Toro, also in The Pledge this week, is similarly gone within the first act (he was dead within ten minutes in The Pledge, no more than thirty minutes in this). The only other actors American audiences will be familiar with are Dennis Farina (biting off of his similar, much better roles of the past), Rade Sherbedgia (in almost a Scream killer-like role), and Brad Pitt, whose indiscernible accent in the previews isn't nearly as difficult to decipher during the movie as they'd like you to think. (He has a scene where his trailer is on fire and he's standing outside in his undies. Obviously he's got a prosthetic appendage or sock in there for droop factor --we all know he can't fool us after those pictures of him and Gwyneth nude.) It just ain't happening. Only foreigner Jason Statham does anything in the vicinity of acting, and even at that, it is not to be taken as a compliment. The best performances would have to be by the dog, who, after swallowing a squeeze toy, squeaks and wheezes when breathing, panting or being pet. Not unlike that of Jim Carrey in Me, Myself & Irene after he gets drop-kicked in the nose by Zellweger. But, similarly, the gag is not able to be stretched too far for too long.
Guy Ritchie, newest husband of Madonna, whose music is turned up here on occasion, and who will appear in his next movie, should have his director's card and contract revoked before that is ever allowed to happen. Being cool while doing a good job is one thing, but nobody likes that guy who acts like a bad ass just to have the reputation. (And, as another connection to The Pledge would have it, both movies this week are also directed by men who are now, or were at one time married to Madonna --Sean Penn. One can only hope her taste in men isn't as bad as the people she wants to sing with: Britney Spears.)Final Verdict: F.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=4454&reviewer=172
originally posted: 01/18/01 09:58:00