[box cover]

Snatch: Deluxe Edition

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Starring Benicio Del Toro, Dennis Farina, Vinnie Jones,
Brad Pitt, Rade Sherbedgia, Jason Statham,
Stephen Graham, Alan Ford, Robbie Gee
and Lennie James

Written and Directed by Guy Ritchie

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Review by Alexandra DuPont                    

"Hopefully, it's not Lock, Stock and Three Smoking Barrels, but it's in the same vein."

— Director Guy Ritchie, discussing Snatch
on the DVD's "making-of" documentary

"White folks won't get this, but black folks will: We make it to the end of the movie."

— Lennie James, who plays "Sol," one of the
(black) pawnbrokers in the film

Part I: The Feature

Remember the farcical structure of Guy Ritchie's caper comic strip Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels? You know — multiple criminal gangs with overlapping agendas pursue a bag of money, with everything tying together at the end as if you'd just watched an episode of "Seinfeld" directed by Sam Peckinpah?

Well, take that basic plot frame; expand the geography (and production budget); add a fist-sized diamond and rigged boxing matches in place of a money bag and a gambling debt; season generously with some exceptionally clever structural and editing tricks; remove some of the zest of seeing this sort of film for the first time; and you're starting to get the vibe of Ritchie's ambitious follow-up effort, Snatch.

If Lock, Stock was Ritchie's Reservoir Dogs, this is his Pulp Fiction — a rambling, funny expansion of a director's signature style. Putting it another way: Were this an SAT simile test, I'd argue that Snatch is to Lock, Stock as Casino is to Goodfellas. For my money, Scorcese got an unfair critical rap with Casino because he explored the inner lives of hoods using Goodfellas actors in similar roles; Scorcese was dismissed with a sniff by the peanut gallery for thematically and stylistically repeating himself. That self-plagiarism charge was certainly leveled against Ritchie when Snatch came out — and it probably sticks better in Ritchie's case — but, as with Casino, Snatch is provocative, well-crafted entertainment ... when taken on its own merits.

(Also, I won't hesitate to point out, Evil Dead 2 is essentially a remake of Evil Dead. There is a precedent for this not being such a terrible thing.)

I'm not going to spend too much time on the plot. (Skip ahead to Part II if you're impatient for DVD-extras dish.) Suffice to say, Snatch is a veritable sitcom of crime — packed with larger-than-life thugs, diamond merchants and boxing promoters screwing each other over, botching heists and courting coincidence as they pursue the film's multi-carat MacGuffin. The intricate plot gymnastics are certainly a pleasure (it's not surprising that Ritchie's an avid chess player), but I think my favoritest thing about Snatch is the rich, playful texture of its storytelling — the ballsy confidence with which it plays with film language.

In Snatch, elaborate sequences are cut out of order and still make perfect sense; maybe two dozen characters are juggled with minimal confusion; scenes are interrupted with footnote-like visual illustrations. This movie also has one of my favorite depictions of semi-unconsciousness of all time; look for it during the film's climactic boxing match. Even a dramatis personae montage introducing the principal characters is a marvel — packed to the gills with seamless edits, graphic-design friezes and acrobatic camera work. Ritchie is showing off, of course, refusing to bore or be bored; he's the P.T. Barnum of caper films. But all his cinematic plate-spinning meshes so perfectly with the dense, silly narrative that you don't resent the exhibitionism.

The performances are numerous and skillful; I'll name a few favorites. Brad Pitt takes supporting-role billing as a "pikey" (read: Irish gypsy) boxer with a damn-near indecipherable accent; it's as if Tyler Durden had joined the cast of "Riverdance," and it's great fun. As nasty crime boss Brick Top, Alan Ford (who played a barkeep in Lock, Stock) comes off like Jack Palance clad in bug-eye glasses, crossed with Albert Finney, then morphed slightly in Photoshop. Dennis Farina, playing an exasperated diamond merchant who hates traveling to London, doesn't act; he behaves. And of course there's soccer star Vinnie Jones — a notorious member of Wimbledon's "Crazy Gang" and a "hard man" for other footy clubs, a man known in real life for his crunching tackles and vicious grabbing of Paul Gascoigne's nethers: As in Lock, Stock, Jones plays a fearsome, charismatic enforcer, only there's no urchin sidekick this time around.

I could go on and on. It's a true ensemble film, solid from nave to chaps and tupp to tail. There are funny and/or tense scenes at the gypsy camp; there's an extraordinary, temporally rearranged sequence involving discarded milk, a hooded man getting creamed by a car, and multiple auto crashes; there's a boxing match that, editing-wise, gives Raging Bull a respectable run for its money; there's Vinnie Jones sitting calmly in a pub, comparing weaponry with a pack of masked poseurs; there are slapsticky bits with a squeaking dog; there's a botched robbery at a bookie den; there's that rollicking dramatis personae montage.... You get the idea. Suffice to say, the movie's a real meal.

That said, to hijack a friend's wisecrack, Ritchie had better adapt Mansfield Park or something very much like it next; otherwise, he's going to be accused of being in one of the more intricately constructed ruts in film history.

*          *          *

Part II: The "Special Edition" Supplements (comments on the "Deluxe Edition" below)

True to the film, Snatch's two-disc "Special Edition" is a witty, show-offy package, right down to its fluid, icon-driven menus. Even the production-notes booklet — which details Ritchie's eccentric system of fines for everything from leaving "mobiles" on during takes to being overly "flash" — is just a bit more interesting than necessary.

Disc One features anamorphic widescreen and full-screen transfers of the U.K. cut of the film, with your choice of Dolby Digital 5.1 or Dolby 2.0 Surround in English or French. Subtitles are available in English, French, or "Pikey" (the latter only appearing onscreen when Brad Pitt is speaking his indecipherable dialogue, which actually reads pretty funny as subtitles).

Also on Disc One is a Director/Producer Commentary featuring Ritchie and a largely mute Matthew Vaughn. It's a dryly funny discussion, featuring cutting remarks about actor Jason Statham (a Lock, Stock vet who plays Snatch's boxing-promoter protagonist, Turkish) — he was apparently supposed to show up for the commentary recording, but flaked out; the pointing-out of various crew members (and judo champions) playing bit and background roles in the film; tales of the "ill-disciplined dog" (eventually replaced) who provides much of Snatch's broadest comic relief ("He butchered and raped almost every member of the crew," recalls Ritchie); hearty praise for the professionalism of Alan Ford as Brick Top; and notes about the film's initial three-hour cut (which literally put its director to sleep), plus the budget-slashing recycling of locales and Ritchie expressing satisfaction with Snatch's first 40 minutes and Ritchie and Vaughan repeatedly pretending to not remember Brad Pitt's name.

Rounding out Disc One is a branching feature called "Stealing Stones," described on the DVD as follows: "When you see this diamond [a wee icon is placed here], press your enter button, and have a look at what should have come next. Until it was taken out, of course." Well, exactly: Imagine a more-interactive version of the X-Men DVD's clunky "extended branching" and you're starting to get the idea. BTW, these deleted scenes are available for stand-alone viewing (with commentary) on Disc Two; they're probably best enjoyed there.

Disc Two kicks off with "Making Snatch" (24:41), a profane, shambling making-of documentary (and one that's enjoyably off-kilter in a genre plagued by what Spike Lee once called "that EPK bullshit"). Among the highlights:

There are also six "Deleted Scenes" with optional (and self-deprecating) director/producer commentary:

Moving along, we find "Storyboard Comparisons" for three scenes — the "Introduction of Characters," the clever "Avi Goes to London" montage, and the climactic "Big Fight." You can view the storyboards alone or as a side-by-side "comparison study" with the finished sequence.

Then there's a 5:16 musical slide show (non-navigable, natch) of production stills and behind-the-scenes shots billing itself as a "Video Photo Gallery"; three 30-second U.S. TV spots that play up the film's comedy; stripped-down filmographies for Guy Ritchie, Benicio del Toro, Dennis Farina, Vinnie Jones, Brad Pitt and Jason Statham; and a curious collection of theatrical trailers — two for Snatch (U.S. trailer and U.K. teaser), but also for Go, Dogma, The Professional, The Lady from Shanghai, Dr. Strangelove, and John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars. Huzzah!

Part III: The "Deluxe Edition"

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment's two-disc Snatch: Deluxe Edition is a modest update of the previously issued two-disc "Special Edition," with a Superbit anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) on Disc One, along with DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio options and an array of subtitles (including "Pikey"). The package also advertises commentary with director Guy Ritchie and producer Matthew Vaughn, as well as a "Stealing Stones" extended-branching feature (both found on the Special Edition release), although these features could not be found on the setup menus. The box also does not advertise the DTS audio, forcing this reviewer to suspect that a bare-bones Superbit edition found its way into the keep-case in error (other consumers' mileage may vary). Disc Two offers many supplements also found on the Special Edition release, including "Making Snatch," the six deleted scenes with director/producer commentary, storyboard/final film comparisons, the "video photo gallery," (5 min.), TV spots and theatrical trailers, and filmographies. It's difficult to discern any reason to recommend the upgrade to folks who already have Snatch on DVD, although the gift-set option packs the dual-DVD slimline keep-case in a paperboard sleeve with an attractive glossy booklet, a deck of custom playing cards, and a dealer's buck.

— Alexandra DuPont

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