Threat advisory: High - High risk of entertaining activities
Stealin' stones and breakin' bones.
Snatch - a diamond deal gone helter-skelter, the rough and tumble world of unlicensed boxing, a colourful Irish Gypsy and... a dog. Diamond thief and courier Franky Four Fingers (Benício del Toro) arrives in London en route to New York to deliver a huge diamond to boss Avi (Dennis Farina). In his mission to offload smaller stones to Avi's cousin, Doug "The Head" (Mike Reid) and other local Hatton Garden jewellers, his problem "a love of gambling", means he is tempted into placing a bet on an illegal boxing bout by Boris "The Blade" (Rade Serbedzija) in lieu of paying for a gun. Little does he know that Boris has set him up - and local pawnshop owners Vinny (Robbie Gee) and Sol (Lennie James) are to rob him at the bookies, along with their getaway driver, Tyrone (Ade). Meanwhile, novice unlicensed boxing promoters, Turkish (Jason Statham) and his business partner Tommy (Stephen Graham) move into the big time through a fight with local kingpin villain, boxing promoter and pig farm owner, Bricktop (Alan Ford). But when their fighter Gorgeous George is knocked out by Micky O'Neill (Brad Pitt), a wildcard Irish Gypsy boxer, the boys, on the promise of a new caravan for his mam, convince the Gypsy to fight in order to honour their commitment.
Since the changed fighter scenario lands Turkish and Tommy in Bricktop's debt, the pair know they have to play by his rules, ie fix the boxing fight. But Micky proves to be highly unreliable and the duo find themselves in trouble as the fearless fighter refuses to go down in the fourth as planned.
Fortunately, the Gypsy's prowess impresses Bricktop - saving all three from his pig farm - but Micky has to fight again. And this time he has to get it right - and Bricktop is not afraid to use brutality and bloodshed to make his point. In New York, news that Franky has been waylaid by the bookies sends Avi into a tailspin and he and his henchman hop on a plane to London. They hire local legend, "Bullet Tooth" Tony (Vinnie Jones) to find Franky and the diamond. The sorry fate of the diamond courier is soon discovered and the hunt for the missing stone launches everyone into a madcap spiral which threatens to spin out of control...
Double-crossing, double bluffing and double-dealing abound as different parties pursue personal agendas - all of them illegal, some of them farcical and most of them destined to end in blood, pain and retribution. As plans go haywire and tempers fray, dogs, diamonds, caravans, boxers and assorted weaponry get swept up into a chaotic free for all...
Persons of interest
- Robbie Gee .... Vinny
- Lennie James .... Sol
- Dennis Farina .... Avi
- Stephen Graham .... Tommy
- Vinnie Jones .... "Bullet Tooth" Tony
- Brad Pitt .... Micky O'Neill
- Alan Ford .... Bricktop
- Jason Statham .... Turkish
- Ade .... Tyrone
- Rade Serbedzija .... Boris "The Blade"
- Mike Reid .... Doug "The Head"
- Benício del Toro .... Franky Four Fingers
- Ewen Bremner .... Mullet
- Jason Flemyng .... Darren
- Guy Ritchie .... Screenwriter
- Guy Ritchie .... Director
Cinematic intelligence sources
Special Agent Matti
Theatrical reportTo grasp hastily or eagerly. To abduct, to grab, to kidnap. Nothing to do with female genitalia at all.
It is impossible to talk about Snatch without referring to Lock, stock and two smoking barrels because the former is a development of the latter. In some senses it is merely an updating, bringing low tech East End criminality further along the timeline to the much sharper edge which marks the new millennium. Music videos, computer-assisted filming techniques, post-modern infiltration. It's clear that Guy has been playing around in between writing the two scripts. Some of the time his indulgences work, other times they are artful but distracting. Generally speaking, they are too "flash" for such a low-life film.
Scripturally, there's nothing between the two films apart from Brad's joyfully incomprehensible faux Irish Gypsy-speak. I have long been a proponent of the reduction of dialogue in film scripts: films are about pictures, not talking. If you want talking then pick up the phone. Brad's almost gibberish makes complete sense as long as you don't try and understand what he's saying because the pictures are telling the story (see also The road home). It also adds an honest humour to Brad's scenes because it's just like life, and life, as you should by now be aware, is the greatest joke of all.
The characters are typically English, further up the food chain than you get on The Bill but more fun because you know what Turkish is thinking: it's his insights that provide the humour to a life and death situation. Turkish is an everycrim: working hard, doing his best, getting along. Lifted straight from medieval morality plays, he is a person to whom everyone can relate. He has his moments of success but lives in constant wariness lest greater powers come along and mess things up, just because they can. Jason is nicely laid back and so secure in his performance that his character never has to lie to himself to keep the plot moving along. Stephen, his offsider and comic relief plays a nicely incompetent best friend: the kind who'd book tickets on the Titanic but would let you share his life jacket.
Snatch is an ensemble film, so there are more actors to talk about than I have any desire to, so suffice to say that everyone does a good job, even those with over the top characters like Rade and Ade. Brad Pitt takes his shirt off and is even more tightly toned than in Fight club (which is a pretty impressive thing). He did a good performance but still stands out from the rest of the cast because he is who he is. When he has his Gypsy chorus around him he's less noticeable (one big bunch of unknowns = one superstar) but overall there's no getting away from fame, especially as Micky is a lot like Tyler.
Despite being derivative (and somewhat incestuous), Snatch is still a bunch o' laffs: the crims are dim, the guns are loaded, the blood is red. If you like the thought of feeding dead bodies to pigs, this film is for you.
Media intelligence (DVD)
- Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
- Disc: 1 x single side, dual layer, 1 x single side, single layer
- Picture: Widescreen (16:9 enhanced)
- Languages: English, German
- Special features
- 2 movie trailers
- 25 minute making of documentary
- 24 minute cast and crew interviews documentary
- 6 Deleted scenes
- 3 Deleted scenes inserted back into feature
- Commentary: Guy Ritchie
- Easter eggs
- Soundtrack selection "Jump to a song" (to scene in movie where it appears)
- Storyboard comparisons
- Pikey subtitles to interpret what Mickey (Brad Pitt) is saying
- Photo gallery
- Production notes
- Snatch one liners
- TV spots Featurette
- Web link
- Talent profiles
- Picture disc
- Subtitles: English, Turkish, Polish, Danish, Czech, Swedish, Hungarian, Finnish, Icelandic, Greek, German, Norwegian, Hebrew, Arabic, Dutch, Bulgarian
Security censorship classification
MA 15+ (Medium level violence, medium level coarse language)
98 minutes (1:38 hours)
Not for public release in Australia before date
DVD rental: 7 November 2001
[ Return to top ]Lock, stock and two smoking barrels, in which a group of friends unwittingly get mixed up in a seedy underworld of drugs, crime and violence. In Snatch, the players are the underworld, but it is London villainy with a comic twist.
"The film is more than just a gangster madcap. It is a diamond heist gone wrong, fixed boxing matches, a New York Mafia boss and an Irish Gypsy turned prize fighter, fighting only to win his mother a new caravan. Plus, a temperamental dog - a film full of helter-skelter twists" says producer Matthew Vaughn.
The roller coaster storylines, combined with the gritty, realistic casting gives the film a quantified 'edge'.
"What started as a blood-rich thriller, ended up as a gangster comedy on set. Fast paced, move it quick and with no fat on it what so ever. I love playing around with dialogue - so this film has some of the material I wanted to put into my first film but couldn't get in" comments Ritchie.
For Vaughn, casting was key. "Guy began to write (the film) before Lock, stock was released, so he was still living and breathing the genre of hard men characters. It took us a long time to find the right faces - we had to see hundreds. Guy has such strong visual references that he wanted people not only to look the part but to deliver maximum authenticity with minimum theatrical technique."
The team was adamant about producing layers of casting to create an original look, rather than to cast star names who might only be associated with previous roles they've played. They needed a gamut of looks for the motley gangster cast - Irish gypsies, Americans, Cockney Londoners, Jews, blacks, Chinese, Russian and Scottish. Leaving no stone, unturned the team looked everywhere - even the Peacock Gym in the East End - for their crew of real life hard men.
"One hefty Guy arrived for a job as a security guard and Guy told him 'no way' - he needed him for a part in the film instead - that made his day," commented Vaughn. Ritchie elaborates: "The cast gelled together so well. Each one is such a character - on and off screen - and they brought a life of their own to the original script I wrote. The roles needed coarseness as well as credibility. It's no good getting Shakespearean actors to play violent Cockney gang members."
Lock, stock attracted Hollywood heavyweight Brad Pitt, who called Ritchie immediately after the première in America and requested a meeting. "They clicked straight away. Brad literally asked to be cast in Guy's next film," reveals Vaughn. "We were shocked at first, thinking 'God, there is nothing in it for him'. Then Guy came up with the idea to cast him as the Irish Gypsy. He normally gets $20 million a film but agreed to a much smaller fee for Snatch - and the same size trailer as everyone else!"
Pitt admits he found the lack of red carpet treatment refreshing. He was even whisked off to a travellers' campsite to spend time with real gypsies to 'appreciate' their lifestyle. Jason Statham recalls the experience: "The one we went to see was pretty straight-forward, like (puts on an Irish accent) "What the fuck are you doing here?" We were wondering whether the car was gonna be left on bricks but fortunately it wasn't! You've got this stigma attached with these kind of characters and sometimes they live up to it and sometimes they don't."
Vaughn was initially worried about casting a Hollywood phenomenon. "The thing about Lock, stock was that everyone mucked in. We had a magical ingredient and I thought Brad's presence might throw all that away. But in fact, he added to it and understood exactly what we were doing."
"It's very flattering that a star such as Brad would be in our film. He was one of the lads right from the start, a top boy who doesn't mince around," says Ritchie. "Out of everyone, he was probably more of a gent than anyone - he made cups of tea for the punters on set."
Casting the other American characters was slightly trickier, Benício del Toro has played such strong, interesting characters that we knew he would meld well into the eclectic clan. We were adamant not to go down the stereotypical route, say, with a Joe Pesci type casting", sites Vaughn.
Farina's character Avi, the Jewish diamond honcho from New York, is forced to go to London to retrieve the unfortunate gem. "I absolutely hate England - my character does, not me personally! That made me unpopular from the moment I stepped on set", he joked. But Farina became part of the crew quickly. "There's no real 'lead' in the film. If anything, the story is the main lead with the actors coming second - including Brad Pitt," he reveals. "There was a journey, albeit a dangerous one, circling round Hatton Garden's jewellery district. Everything else was just window dressing."
"It was a project that I had been looking for and I have [always] wanted to act with people like Benício del Toro" he adds. Benício del Toro, whose character Franky Four Fingers gets the plot rolling, found Ritchie's unique casting choices a change from his Hollywood experiences. "With the right attitude from the right director, you can get a good performance from someone who has never acted before. But it might not be a performance... it's just having them 'being'. I think all the characters make the film and the film makes all the characters... and Guy will have brought his angles and signature to it," he comments.
The Americans did have some trouble with the Cockney rhyming slang, however. "In my neighbourhood, if you went up to a Guy and said 'You have a nice 'pack 'n' rye', you'd probably get punched!" muses Dennis.
With Mike Reid, Guy knew it would be interesting to have him play a typical "Jewish Londoner" working in the diamond trade. "It was something about Mike's sense of humour. We managed to get Mike just enough time off Eastenders to come on board. He gave the part real flavour," divulges Vaughn. Vinnie Jones' convincing performance in Lock, stock secured his place in Snatch as legendary hard man "Bullet Tooth" Tony, who has the scars to prove it.
"We wanted Vinnie back - he was part of the original Lock, stock team," says Vaughn. "If things are working, why break them? Vinnie has a great looking face and delivers his lines perfectly. Nothing needs to be cut around. he's also extremely creative."
Jones is very serious about his acting. He takes to it with a sportsman's attitude, training, warming up and then giving a stellar performance - just like his football. But there is a major difference between his two careers. "You're on your own in acting, nobody can hide you if you're rubbish and stuff your lines, whereas in football you're covered by a team," he reveals, adding "it's important for me to get it right because acting is all I've got left. The ultimate for me would to be the next 007 - all of those shooters and stunts."
James Bond fantasies aside, Vinnie cannot praise working with Ritchie enough. "He's a one-off... his beliefs are very strong and he believes in himself - there are no grey areas. When he makes a decision, he knows it's the right one. He led me through Lock, stock and he's leading me all through this [Snatch]. Any advice I need, I go to him."
Lock, stock was an experiment for the production in many ways. For example, Alan Ford, an authentic Eastender, who was the narrator first time round and Sting's barman, plays the local kingpin villain Bricktop - a man with a penchant for dog fights and clever body disposals on his pig farms. Another player from Lock, stock is Jason Flemyng, who plays Darren in Snatch, Micky's Gypsy best friend. "There are a lot more gags in Snatch and plenty more action," says Flemyng. "What you end up with is this deadpan humour that's worked its way out because Guy tells everyone to deliver their lines as if ordering a pint of milk."
According to casting director Lucinda Syson, Flemyng took a smaller role to what he's used to because he loves working with Guy, not to mention that he recognised the strength of the script. "He just wanted to be part of the boys again after the fun of Lock, stock," says Syson. "But as the filming went on, his role became more important. The Pikey community simply grew around Brad's character and Jason just gave this enormous support."
"I am going to be the most famous extra after this film," muses Flemying "because I can say I am Brad Pitt's side kick! Besides, nobody is going to recognise me as I have a long red wig on, I am unshaven and I really look like I am recovering from a severe hangover." Ade, who makes his big screen debut as Tyrone the getaway driver, reveals that just being on set was entertainment in itself: "Guy knew what he wanted, but he allowed us to be creative and try things out."
Stephen Graham, the Liverpudlian who plays Cockney thug Tommy, couldn't agree more. "Guy always had a plan, a structure, and he kept everyone on the go. But once the camera was rolling, he let the scene develop its own magic." Statham remembers one particular scene which developed with a mind of its own. "There's a scene when we are marching Brad out of the boxing ring and we've got all the extras there and, all of a sudden, a riot starts. This was never scripted... so we have a lot of fun with chairs flying and all that! A lot of stuff just sort of happens on the day... its part of the fun."
Vaughn elaborates on the casting of Graham: "Tommy's character was probably the most difficult to cast. We found our Tommy just a week before shooting. He had to have that rare chemistry with Turkish, being his cheeky sidekick. Together they run - badly - an amateur boxing syndicate, desperately trying to keep up with the more ruthless, professional gamblers on the circuit". And Graham enjoyed every minute of filming. "Being part of this cast is just like being on a football team. There is no lead and there is total trust," he says.
Jason Statham, gleaned from the original Lock, stock cast, jokes that Turkish and Tommy are the "George and Mildred" of the criminal underworld. "We all wheel and deal but to different degrees. Everyone's plans collide and go pear-shaped, with the hole getting bigger and bigger and this diamond still floating around London," he says, adding "it's a great ensemble piece where there aren't any real leads. Except for the dog! He's the star! He was just uncontrollable - attacking everything, especially leather which, unfortunately, featured highly in our wardrobe."
The bumbling pawnshop owners - Vinny (Robbie Gee) and Sol (Lennie James) - were very hard to cast. "They had to have that special, natural comedy element between them while ganging up and making life difficult for their getaway driver, Tyrone. It comes out in the dialogue - Sol is the rational one and Vinny the more gung-ho. Playing off each other, they muster their way through sticky situations, never really knowing what they're doing," explains Syson. With a molotov mixture of highly professional actors, "non" actors, dogs, children and the ever unreliable British weather, Ritchie's Snatch will take the gangster stereotype into another dimension. As Ritchie points out, "It's not only about getting the right face and personality to play the part. It's about creating a family. That's why casting takes so long - the actors themselves have to be very real and very strong and they also have to gel off screen. After a long day's shooting, I want to be able to have a pint with the lads and cash in on the money Jason (Statham) owes me from our daily game of chess."
Vinnie Jones couldn't agree more: "Everybody knows each other. You know [everyone from] the lighting boys to the electricians to the main actors. We all know each other by name and, after work, we will all have a drink together," he says. Statham elaborates: "It's because it's the same crew as Lock, stock. It's all the same giggles and laughs everyone's having so it's very similar in a lot of ways. It's as much, if not more, fun,".
But the standard of accommodation didn't change per Statham: "One day we might do a film and, you know, get to wipe our feet before we go into the trailer instead of on the way!"
"We constantly took the piss out of one another," Ritchie elaborates. "You either sink or swim in this atmosphere and, with this group, a lot of us have swum like fish." To keep things in order, Ritchie introduced a fine system on set. There were fines for mobile phones, arriving late, taking naps during shooting, being 'cheeky', being unfunny and moaning. One staff member was even charged for letting the craft service table run out of coffee cups!
Ritchie explained: "[The fines] helped to keep a tight ship. Unfortunately, I was one of the ones who suffered most. These lads had a whole wrap party on me because I kept forgetting to give socks back to the prop department." Jason Statham adds: "The fine that actually got him every time was the 'flash' fine. Imposed on him anytime that we felt he was being a bit too 'flash!" On the subject of money, an old-fashioned game of cards kept most of the cast occupied between takes. Vinnie Jones explains: "It followed on from Lock, stock really. The producer comes on and upsets everybody by bringing the cards out! Brad was right up for the cards... although I reckon he was playing in dollars when we were playing in pounds! I think he was getting skinned a little bit!"
According to production designer Hugo Luczyc-Wyhowski, they managed to obtain some illegal footage of real bare-knuckle fights and tracked down bare-knuckle fighters to discuss the intricacies. "The reality is a little more makeshift than what we built in the film, as all evidence has to be removed in a hurry," says Luczyc-Wyhowski. "The dog pit was my idea as usually the dog fight 'ring' is formed by a circle of cars for a fast getaway, with no evidence remaining," he adds. "We researched the dog fighting very easily on the internet, where you can find lots of horrible action. The dogs in the film should have cropped ears, like true fighting dogs, but it's illegal in the UK."
The biggest adventure was to produce sets for the film that felt real and didn't patronise or stereotype. "For example, we created a Gypsy camp to look entirely believable and interesting without being a romanticised version of reality - all from just a bare field," says Luczyc-Wyhowski. "But the secretive world of diamond dealing in Hatton Gardens was incredibly hard to simulate and film because the establishment is so concerned with security. We put a lot of attention into the details of all the paraphernalia and myriad of locks and video cameras." Then there were the special touches. "We had some unusual requirements - like having to make diamonds that a dog can - and wants to - swallow, diamonds that smash when dropped, briefcases with secret compartments, squeaky dog toys..." laughed Vaughn.
Working with dogs created some hysterical stories: "The hero dog was male. I should stop there. But, there was a scene in a car at a petrol station with four of the fellas. During the filming, the dog became more and more in love with one of the actors and could only be separated from his leg with great difficulty! Doesn't sound like much but it was hilarious at the time - an actor trying to walk across the forecourt of this gas station with a dog stuck to his leg and Guy shouting "Yes fantastic! Keep filming!"