Guy Ritchie’s second directorial feature film, “Snatch” dives into the corrupt London underworld of bare-knuckle boxing and diamond dealing!
After a hit debut film, “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” – Ritchie compiled another ensemble of misfits for more action, crime, and comedy!
Jason Statham plays “Turkish”, a boxing promoter with a quick wit and an honourable reputation in the underground boxing world…soon to be tarnished.
Despite Statham being a household name in 2021, “Snatch” was only his second role in a feature film after director Guy Ritchie loved working with him on “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”.
Brad Pitt plays Mickey O’Neil, an Irish gypsy traveller with lightning in his fists, and a propensity towards violence. Having just completed “Fight Club” the previous year (in 1999), he was reluctant to take on another fighter role so quickly. However, his admiration for Guy Ritchie as a director convinced him to join the star-studded cast.
Stephen Graham plays “Tommy”, Turkish’s young sidekick and partner in crime. For what he lacks in years, Tommy makes up for in pointing artillery at his adversaries to get what he wants.
Stephen Graham stumbled onto Ritchie’s radar by accident on the set of a short film, where Graham was dropping off another actor; when the director realised that Graham could switch between his Merseyside (Liverpudlian) accent and a cockney (London) accent at will, he knew he had a future star.
Football hard-man, Vinnie Jones plays “Bullet Tooth Tony”, a London gangster who stops at nothing to extort, threaten, and intimidate.
Jones’ feature film debut was, similar to Jason Statham, “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”. Guy Ritchie had wanted to turn Jones into a film star ever since he saw him playing football and his performance in “Snatch” certainly propelled him towards that.
Finally, Alan Ford plays “Brick Top”, a merciless gangster who controls the world of illegal sports betting, namely boxing. He is the devil that nobody wants to make a deal with, but his power and his hungry pack of pigs make that inevitable.
Ford was already an accomplished TV actor prior to “Snatch”, but he rose to the occasion for one of his first features to deliver a memorable performance.
Other notable cast members are Benicio Del Toro (“Franky Four Fingers”), Dennis Farina (“Cousin Avi”), and Lennie James (“Sol”).
Underground boxing promoter, Turkish, makes a deal with illegal betting gangster Brick Top, to partner up and increase Brick Top’s legitimacy. However, when Turkish’s star fighter gets knocked out by bare-knuckle boxing champion Mickey, they are left without a fighter.
In an attempt to rescue the fight, Mickey steps in as a late replacement under one condition – that he has to go down in the fourth round.
Naturally, Mickey knocks out his opponent in one punch, landing Turkish and Tommy where they don’t want to be…in Brick Top’s debt.
Meanwhile, an 84-carat diamond has arrived on the black market in London, sending the criminal underworld into a frenzy.
Turkish is given a final chance to make Mickey cooperate in another rigged boxing match whilst his life as a lowly boxing promoter draws closer and closer together with a diamond that will change his fortunes forever.
Director, Guy Ritchie, wanted his fight scenes to replicate real street fighting.
His attitude was that no one takes 50 punches to the face before they draw blood. Therefore, the fight scenes were choreographed for fast-paced, clinical violence.
This added to the mystique surrounding Mickey’s character – Brad Pitt was breaking the mould of how many fight scenes were choreographed whilst his character Mickey was an unpredictable wildcard in Brick Top’s highly controlled criminal world. So, the subversive nature of “Snatch’s” fight scenes was reflected in its production as well as its fictional world.
It also helped that Brad Pitt was just as prepared to take a beating as he was to dish one out on set. Guy Ritchie’s only real challenge in filming the fight scenes was to avoid Pitt fatiguing mid-shoot.
A hallmark of Guy Ritchie’s filmmaking is the aesthetic he creates through editing. Similar to Edgar Wright (“Shaun of the Dead”), his films follow a pattern in their editing which utilizes short, snappy cuts that synchronize with soundtracks and soundscapes. “Snatch” is no different with its sharp cuts, swirling transitions, and comedic timing.
Drawing influence from his days directing music videos, Guy Ritchie deployed freeze frames and speed ramps in the fight scenes for “Snatch”.
The visually striking speed-up, and slow-down roller-coaster editing makes for a dynamic viewing experience. You’re allowed to linger on a single punch in slow motion before being jolted forward with the action of a fight.
Ritchie also pays homage to the spaghetti western in his editing by taking on the opening, credit-style of freeze-framing each character with their name superimposed on screen. This technique allows the film to quickly introduce all of its main characters and jump straight into the action. Plus it prepares us for a familiar western-style narrative: revenge.
Laugh Out Loud-Style Violence
Aside from being an action-packed, high-stakes gangster movie, “Snatch” is unapologetically funny. When watching the film, it’s difficult to identify a single throwaway line in the script.
By mixing some choice words into the outrageous back-and-forth dialogue, even a dead man’s hand being chopped off is layered with humour. Often times, when comedy meets action, it is at the expense of good writing. Slapstick physical humour can take over as the only route to getting a laugh during a dynamic action sequence.
“Snatch” finds its humour in the situations that our band of misfit characters land themselves in. The action, the fights, and the threats are serious…but the consequences of each act of debauchery lace scene after scene with hopeless laughter.
If you enjoyed “Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels”, then “Snatch” will be a no-brainer winner for you!
It is ultimately another tale of subcultures that are unknown to most viewers. By shining a light on these dark unknowns of Britain’s underworlds, Guy Ritchie found a space with its own rules where his imagined characters could flourish.
“Snatch” provides a jolting viewing experience; from the acting performances to the masterful editing that ties it all together.
The film deftly balances the tightrope stunt of showing us a series of morally bankrupt mobsters whilst inviting us to empathize with their plights.
- “It’s an unlicensed boxing match, Tommy…not a tickling competition.” – Turkish
- “You take sugar?” – Turkish
- “No thank you, Turkish. I’m sweet enough.” – Brick Top
- “That’s Tommy. He tells people he was named after a gun, but I know he was really named after a famous 19th century ballet dancer.” – Turkish
- Guy Ritchie is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu under Renzo Gracie.
- All songs on the soundtrack were from jukeboxes between 1985 and 1998 – Guy Ritchie would go through his favourite pub songs and use them to change the ‘tone’ of the scenes.
- “Snatch” was written in 3 months using all the storylines that wouldn’t fit into “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”.
- On set, the crew operated a fines system – anyone who was late or whose mobile phone went off during filming would be fined a small fee. Guy Ritchie enjoyed the atmosphere it created on set…until crew members started turning the fines system on him!