Snatch ★★★★★

Guy Ritchie established his milieu and interests and mood with "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels". He got his foot in the door. He got attention, most importantly, from studios and from a better class of actors. With "Snatch" he took the formula of "Lock, Stock" and built upon it, refined it. "Lock, Stock" functioned well enough, but "Snatch" feels like a master mechanic taking the engine he's built and tweaking it, re-calibrating it until it gives him the performance he craves and has dreamed of.

Once again, Ritchie delves into the seedy underworld of London crime: jewel heists, illegal bare-knuckle boxing bouts, "pikeys" and gangsters. Once again he gives us a dozen characters and then plays them against each other, knocking them into each other and careening them off one another in interesting, fun ways. But this time Ritchie displays more confidence. The camera work that helped distinguish "Lock, Stock" is even more impressive this time around. This movie throbs with visual flair and fun little gimmicks. The editing, like the large diamond that everyone in this movie is trying to get their hands on, is "flawless". The structure is better, the story being told is more interesting, the pace is a lot snappier and faster ("Snatch" has none of the dead spots that undermined parts of "Lock, Stock") and the characters that bounce off of one another are a lot more colorful.

It helps that these colorful characters are brought to life by a killer lineup of excellent actors too. Ritchie brings back Jason Statham, Vinnie Jones and Jason Flemyng and, in the case of Statham and Jones, gives them a lot more to sink their teeth into. He then surrounds them with people like Benicio Del Toro, Dennis Farina, Rade Serbedzija and Brad Pitt. I have long maintained that Brad Pitt is a character actor trapped in the body of a leading man (I'm clearly not the only one who believes this) and "Snatch" is a perfect example of what I'm talking about. Pitt plays a grungy, dirty "pikey" with an accent that renders his dialogue nearly unintelligible most of the time. It's a phenomenal character that Pitt gives 110% to. One can sense him flourishing and flowering beneath the tattoos and ratty clothes and dense accent and having the time of his life. Early in his career, Pitt played a lot of leading, romantic hero roles but he always seemed slightly ill at ease in them, as though chafing in a suit that was too constrictive. Pitt seems absolutely relaxed and exuberant here. It's one of his best performances. You can sense his relaxation and delight at playing along the margins of this film doing his strange, quirky business. He's been freed from the burden of carrying an entire film, and now instead gets to just steal it out from under the rest of the cast at every opportunity.

But Pitt isn't the only one having a blast here. As great as he is, the rest of the cast seems to be having just as great a time with the colorful characters they've been given. Dennis Farina is awesome as Uncle Avi, a diamond merchant who flies in from New York City to make sure that the huge diamond he's after doesn't go astray. Farina is commanding and hilarious, nearly every line of dialogue he delivers is unforgettable. Alongside his equally hilarious and memorable work in "Get Shorty", this is perhaps my favorite Farina performance. But people tend to forget about the joys of Rade Serbedzija as "Boris the Blade" AKA "Boris the Bullet-Dodger". He is an absolute trip in this film. If you've seen a movie from the late 1990s, you've seen Rade's work, but he has never gotten a showcase for his talents to rival this one. He's usually cast as the sinister Russian (he rented Tom Cruise his "Fidelio" costume in "Eyes Wide Shut", for instance) and, well, that's what he plays here. But he gets a far funnier and crazier sort of Russian to play here and makes an absolute meal of it. Like Farina, he relishes every line of dialogue and dials his performance up to the level of the rest of this energetic and delightful film. I love the three hapless pawn shop guys who get drawn into this caper as well (played wonderfully by Lennie James, Robbie Gee and Ade). I laughed whenever they showed up, especially at Tyrone's attempts to park the getaway car.

"Snatch" is breathlessly entertaining. It's hilarious at every turn (my God, this movie is insanely quotable), boasts relentless pacing (there's not a dull moment or even a bum scene in the entire film), has a great soundtrack, is filled with great actors seemingly having the time of their lives, and is meticulously structured in a way that still feels loose and spritely. I've always loved this movie and, watching it this time, I don't know why I don't pop it in at least once a year. It's a fucking blast.

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