You could say Guy Ritchie's got a lot to answer for. After wowing audiences with his fun, flashy East End crime comedy Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels, he effectively laid the channel for a stinkin' welter of sub-substandard Brit crime thrillers (Circus, Rancid Aluminium), which have since been clogging up the UK release schedules like a turd convention in a U-bend. Still, it hardly seems fair to blame Ritchie for the crapness of his imitators - - his movie made a mint, so it's unsurprising that everyone else and their uncle's dog tried to cash in.
Yet this unfortunate situation begs the question: do we really need another gritty Britty crimer, replete with sharp suits and even sharper shooters? Well, to be honest, Snatch isn't enough of a departure for Ritchie to escape accusations of it being little more than Lock, Stock 2. Like his debut, it's packed with comic caricatures, centres on a larky caper set in a non-specific and obviously fictional East London, and mixes cartoon violence, a cool soundtrack and some downright stylish visuals to good effect.
The plot's so convoluted it's not even worth trying to follow - - it's simply a case of watching the many characters bounce off, into and over each other, and enjoying the resulting episodes. And Ritchie has assembled an impressive ensemble to handle this action, although certain members prove less demanding of your attention than others.
Bungling robbers Vinnie, Sol and Tyrone (Robbie Gee, Lennie James and Ade) sit uncomfortably at the plot's centre and are too self-consciously stupid to either encourage sympathy or even get the laughs. And the trouble-magnet double act of Turkish (Jason Statham) and Tommy (Stephen Graham) suffer from almost always being surrounded by stronger characters, played by better actors with sharper dialogue.
Among these is Brad Pitt, who's excellent as sinewy gypsy bare-knuckle champ Mickey, and Rade Serbedzijaas the nasty, narcissistic and virtually bulletproof Boris. Mike Reid makes a welcome cameo as Avi's man in London, while Vinnie Jones is finally given a decent amount of dialogue to chew on as Bullet-Tooth Tony.
But it's Alan Ford as Brick Top who proves the most entertaining. Ford's not exactly a big name, but you may recognise him from a bit-part in The Long Good Friday, or as the East End gangster in Knowing Me, Knowing You. His performance as the psychotic, myopic fight-fixer drips with menace, and he spits out his bile-saturated dialogue with relish.
With Snatch, Ritchie proves he knows what his audience wants. You won't find much depth in his Lock, Stock follow-up, and it's hardly going to change the face of British cinema. But who cares? It's a larf, innit.
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Cockneys? Criminals? Capers? Snatch does everything it says on the tin, and with it Ritchie proves he's still a cut above his imitators. It may be more of the same, but at least that means it's still better than all the third-raters which followed Lock, Stock.