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SNATCH Isn’t Exactly the Guy Ritchie TV Show You’re Looking for (Review)

SNATCH Isn’t Exactly the Guy Ritchie TV Show You’re Looking for (Review)

Nowadays, Guy Ritchie‘s reputation seems to be as a reliable steward of big screen franchise properties based on public domain characters, like Sherlock Holmes and King Arthur. But 2000’s Snatch was the movie that at one time defined him as the British version of Quentin Tarantino. Upping the ante on his debut crime comedy Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch downright obliterated the fine line between comedy and violent action, forcing broad goofball characters with names like “Brick Top” and “Bullet-Tooth Tony” to face utterly serious consequences.

These acrobatics as carried out by its mix of  big-name Hollywood stars (Brad PittBenicio Del ToroDennis Farina) with UK character actors both familiar (Ewen Bremner, Jason Flemyng, Alan Ford) and emerging (Jason Staham, Lennie James, Vinnie Jones) truly make Snatch Ritchie’s masterpiece. As such, the notion of a TV series based on Snatch might feel as sacrilegious as one based on Pulp Fiction (just wait–that’ll happen next)… at least until you remember that Fargo pulled it off well enough.

But what complicates matters further is that Snatch the TV series really isn’t based much on the movie at all.

CRKL_Snatch_KeyArt_Print_FM_1200pxW

What the properties share is the extremely loose premise of a fixed fight involving gypsy boxer–one that goes very wrong. And sure, it seems at first like it will connect more directly, as a prologue set 12 years ago features a thief in a Queen Elizabeth mask getting shot, running home, and passing on a purloined gold bar to his young son before the police arrive to take him away. Franchise-savvy viewers might expect that father to be, say, “Turkish,” the original movie’s protagonist as played by Jason Statham. But no–it’s an entirely new character named Vic Hill (Dougray Scott) who, judging by the first two episodes, will make his presence known from behind bars, and who will keep appearing in prologues that inform how he got to where he is today.

Sure enough, none of the original characters are involved; producer Alex De Rakoff has said only that he wanted to “channel the spirit and style of Snatch to tell an entirely new story with new characters and set in the London of today.” Truth be told, the show would fare better without hitching its wagon to a movie from which it is so substantively different. Then again, it might not have gotten made at all without the Snatch hook.

The story is loosely based on a real-life heist that De Rakoff was planning to make a movie about before he was asked to develop a Snatch TV show. Luke Pasqualino (The Musketeers) is Albert Hill, the now-adult son of Vic, raised in the ways of a small-time crook but hoping to go legit promoting the boxing career of his friend Billy (Lucien Laviscount), who in this telling is mixed-race and only half-gypsy. Together with their upper class pal Charlie (Rupert Grint), they initially try to handle the fight honestly, until Vic calls from prison and insists Billy go down in the fourth round so that he can make some money betting on the battle. Albert instead plots a double cross, to have Billy win in the fourth, but matters get complicated when Billy’s opponent is revealed to be a vicious cheater with whom he has personal beef.

Oliver Bodur Dougray Scott

We don’t get anything quite as funny as Brad Pitt’s big screen one-punch knockouts, but things do go badly. The three hapless “heroes” then plot the heist of what turns out to be the wrong money truck, reaping retaliation on a massive scale. The fallout from this particular mistake appears to be what’s going to set the stage for everything that ensues in the full 10-episode season.

Snatch shoots its action with all kinds of goosed-up effects, but it generally works to build tension, and the chase sequences are solid. Where it falters is in attempting Guy Ritchie’s sense of humor, which nobody involved seems to have. Grint behaves like a completely naive fool in some danger-laden situations, in a way that’s less funny than I presume it’s meant to be, and an ongoing bit of shtick involving three lecherous gangster Rabbis in episode two is the sort of thing that maybe, MAYBE Mel Brooks could pull off, but nobody else. (Hint: saying “Bubbe” over and over is not inherently hilarious.)

Ed Westwick

On the plus side, it’s great to see the under-appreciated Stephanie Leonidas (Mirrormask, Defiance) get a key role as a savvy gold saleswoman, even if she has been unnecessarily shoehorned into an American accent.

The name of the show is, I think, the biggest hangup–it’s a pointless double-entendre in the U.S., and a tenuous franchise link everywhere else. Call it, oh, let’s say, Guy Ritchie Presents: Three Wankers and I’d probably feel freer to enjoy it more. But it’s not really Snatch, in any way that I recognize. It is, however, a just-okay show that has some potential to get better.

Two and a half burritos for the first two full episodes.

2.5 burritos

Snatch premieres March 16th on Crackle.

Images: Matt Squire/Crackle

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