Snatch (2001)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Cast: Brad Pitt, Benicio Del Toro, Dennis Farina, Jason Statham, Vinnie Jones, Rade Sherbedgia
Extras: Commentary Track,

I’m going to start off this review with a little story. Two years ago, in the summer of 1999, I was tipped off on the fanatical Internet DVD forums that a little known film from England was going to be released on DVD and that it was available online for the insane price of ten bucks. This was before bargain pricing for DVDs was widespread and, combined with one of those seemingly always available coupons, the title could be had for a smooth five dollars.
That DVD was "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels," a hilarious and violent black comedy about hapless criminals plying their craft on the seedy side of London — a movie that I likely never would have seen if not for my inability to pass up a deal.

Now here we are two years later and "Snatch," the follow-up film by director Guy Ritchie, has just been released as a full-blown, two-disc special edition. While I certainly wasn’t able to snag this one for five bucks, to say that I was eagerly awaiting this DVD would be an understatement.

As with Ritchie’s earlier film, the plot of "Snatch" is a convoluted and confusing look at how the lives of various criminal elements in London knowingly and unknowingly cross paths over the course of a few short days. While some compare the style to that of "Pulp Fiction," the story here is told in a much more linear fashion although the constant cutting back and forth sometimes makes it seem otherwise.

Turkish (Jason Statham) and his partner in crime Tommy (Stephen Graham) are doing alright by their illegal gambling business but are anxious to make a big score in the world of underground boxing to fund their purchase of a nice new trailer. To this end they throw in with crime boss, and renowned sadist, Brick Top (Alan Ford) to have their prize fighter, Gorgeous George (Adam Fogerty), take a fall in an upcoming bout. But when George gets his butt whupped by the vagabond trailer-trading One Punch Mickey (Brad Pitt), the boys instead recruit the marble-mouthed Pikey to fight. Unbeknownst to them, old Mickey doesn’t quite know how to take a fall.

Meanwhile, Frankie Four Fingers (Benicio Del Toro) is passing through London with a giant diamond he lifted in a Hasidic heist in Amsterdam. While waiting for his flight to New York, Frankie is informed by Doug the Head (Mike Reid), a diamond broker who only thinks he’s Jewish, about the upcoming bout. Doug later mentions this tidbit in passing to Cousin Avi (Dennis Farina) back in New York and Avi, knowing that Frankie is a compulsive gambler, fears for his diamond and hops the Concord to Britain. When Avi arrives in London to find Frankie missing, he hires the unstoppable Bullet Tooth Tony (Vinnie Jones) to find his gem.

But wait, there’s more. Gun seller and all-around madman Boris the Blade (Rade Sherbedgia) wants a piece of that stone and hires pawnbrokers Vinny (Robbie Gee) and Sol (Lennie James) to grab Frankie and knock over Brick Top’s bookmaking operation. Things go terribly wrong for the boys who, along with their hefty wheel man Tyrone (Ade), soon find themselves up against Brick Top’s version of retribution.

Whew! Needless to say, all of these storylines intersect with varying degrees of hilarity and violence and the almost non-stop patter features some of the wittiest dialogue ever heard in a crime flick. And, while this all sounds quite confusing, Guy Ritchie does an admirable job in holding the plot together and, in the end, it’ll all be as clear as a London morning.

"Snatch" is presented in both 1.85:1 <$16x9,anamorphic> <$PS,widescreen> and 4:3 <$PS,pan and scan> versions. Let’s stick to the <$PS,widescreen> presentation shall we? The style of the film is grittily realistic with a very subdued color palette and natural lighting used throughout. While the transfer may look grainy at times, this is clearly the intent. Black levels aren’t as deep as one might expect from a newer release due to the frequent low lighting but again, this is the way it’s supposed to look.
While the colors are intentionally washed out, they are always solid and well-balanced. The image is quite sharp as well with very little edge enhancement evident. The film elements do suffer from the occasional nick and blemish but these are never terribly distracting and add to the rough and tumble look of the movie. All in all, the video transfer is true to the director’s intent and, while it isn’t a glossy, impeccable show-off piece, the image mirrors the mood of the film perfectly.

Audio is presented in English and French Dolby 2.0 Surround and English <$DD,Dolby Digital> <$5.1,5.1 mix>es. The soundtrack is quite immersive with the surrounds and LFE channel coming to life for the action sequences and the film’s often booming music. Dialogue is firmly centered and is quite clear although the heavy accents might necessitate the use of the subtitle track here and there (more on this later). Music, sound effects, and the spoken word are all given equal emphasis and this is one of the rare sound mixes that doesn’t require frequent adjustments of the volume knob to achieve a comfortable listening level.

As for the subtitles, there’s a choice of English, French, or Pikey. The Pikey option is quite unusual in that it only offers subtitles when the character of One Punch Mickey is speaking in his nearly indecipherable brogue. Heck, even the subtitles can’t always catch what the crazy Pikey is saying!

As a two-disc set you might imagine that "Snatch" would be packed to the gills with bonus features. While the included extras are quite good, they would have easily fit on a single disc if the <$PS,pan and scan> version of the film had been omitted.

Disc One features a running <$commentary,commentary track> with director Guy Ritchie and producer Matthew Vaughn. This is a very entertaining and casual discussion as the two happily munch away at their lunch and trade barbs while watching the film. Eventually, they are encouraged by unnamed men in suits to get a bit more focused but, try as they might, they are unable to stay serious for long. Guy Ritchie comes across as a very enthusiastic director who isn’t afraid to be self-critical or to offer up compliments and criticism of his cast and crew and the style of the commentary matches perfectly the haphazard style of the film. Also included on the first disc is a special feature called "Stealing Stone." With this option enabled, a small diamond appears on screen during certain parts of the movie. Pressing the "Enter" key on the remote takes the viewer to the deleted scene that would have come next then returns them to the main feature when finished. The fact that the deleted scenes are in <$PS,full frame>, with mono sound, and with timecodes stamped across the bottom is really quite jarring and pulls the viewer out of the picture. All of these scenes are also included individually on the second disc and it’s much more pleasing to view them in that fashion.

Disc Two features a 25-minute making-of documentary entitled "Making Snatch." The program highlights actor Jason Statham interviewing Guy Ritchie while trouncing him at a game of chess. The easy camaraderie that has formed between the men from working together on two films is clearly evident as they delight in taking jabs at each another. This feature offers up a lot of behind-the-scenes footage and very candid discussions with the director in which he admits that the audience generally views "Snatch" as being more of a comedy than he had originally intended.

Next up are the six deleted scenes available with or without the director’s commentary. It’s usually clear when viewing deleted scenes as to why they were removed from the final cut but I have to say that a few of the scenes from "Snatch" really helped to fill in some of the holes in the story and it’s perplexing as to why they were removed as none are longer than a few minutes.

Disc Two also offers up three storyboard featurettes that allow the viewer to compare the original storyboards to the finished product or view them on their own.

The Video Photo Gallery is a five-minute montage of behind-the-scenes photos set to music. Next up are three TV spots, the U.K. teaser and U.S. theatrical trailers, and trailers for other films including "Go," "Dogma," "The Professional," "The Lady from Shanghai," "Dr. Strangelove," and "Ghosts of Mars" the upcoming film from John Carpenter that I pray is better than its trailer indicates. Rounding out the extras are brief filmographies for the principal stars and the director.

"Snatch" is an energetic, almost frantic film that combines some elements of black comedy with scenes of great violence — implied and otherwise. While somewhat bleaker than Guy Ritchie’s previous "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels," the two movies do share a lot in common (besides the obvious fact that Jason Statham and Vinnie Jones starred in both). In each film, the plot revolves around a myriad of interrelated storylines that feature characters consciously and obliviously impacting the lives of other characters. And both films also revolve around the butchered execution of crime capers both big and small with accompanying body counts to match. If you liked one of the films, you’ll surely enjoy the other and the two make for quite a double-feature.

Whereas "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" received only a very plain DVD release, the higher budget, critical acclaim, and larger studio involved in the creation of "Snatch" have come together to offer fans a nice two-disc special edition.

The audio and video quality of "Snatch" are perfect reflections of the director’s intent and capably convey the gritty reality of Guy Ritchie’s vision of the dark side of London. The included extras are quite insightful although the use of a two-disc release may lead some to assume that there would be more in the way of bonus features. Alas, all that extra space is allotted for the very poor <$PS,pan and scan> version of the movie and it’s a sad truth that the two-disc region 2 DVD release offers a few additional features missing from this U.S. DVD.

That being said, this is still a fine presentation of a great film and I hope that fans of over-the-top black comedies, crime capers, and foul-mouthed, witty dialogue enjoy "Snatch" as much as I did (dang but that sounds dirty). And, if I haven’t already belabored this point to death, "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" should be required viewing as well.