Guy Ritchie’s followup to smash hit debut Lock, Stock, And Two Smoking Barrels was not a tremendous success at the time, with many deeming it more of the same. Coming at it the other way though, picking up Snatch out of boredom at the DVD shop knowing almost nothing about it, I found it a delightful romp – not nearly as profound as Pulp Fiction (if PF didn’t directly influence Ritchie, he at least benefited from the wave of interest in quirky crime films it generated), but not a rote knockoff either; story and filmmaking are so propulsive and so fun that it breezes through its hundred-minute runtime.
The plot is fairly intricate, but at the center are two things: a diamond that almost all the characters chase at one point or another, and Turkish, a humble illegal boxing manager who narrates for us. The film has a very wide and diverse ensemble cast, from the incompetent robbers who stumble through the film to the well-entrenched British gangsters to the foreign killers and mercs to the Americans who wander through the story. Despite some verbal tics that carry through – characters tend to use each other’s names like punctuation – no two characters are the same, all of them carrying different tics and speaking patterns and histories.
Going from Snatch to L,S,2SB shows that it wasn’t simple repetition but an increase in budget and craft; that rich variety of character comes from Ritchie’s higher profile letting him pull in names like Brad Pitt, Benicio Del Toro, and Dennis Farina; by comparison, the cast of L,S2SB feel like a gang of teenage boys. And the filmmaking is smoother, simpler, and better paced, with Ritchie finding the perfect balance between stylish and invisible – there’s a zoom when there should be a zoom, there’s a held shot when there should be a held shot. It’s neither distracting nor boring.
Like I said, it’s not the most profound film in the world, but that’s part of the appeal – this is the filmic equivalent of a finely crafted pop song, a cheerful bit of pulp entertainment that gets in, entertains for an hour and a half, and gets out.