Monday, April 16, 2007


Some movies bring you up to a higher level of understanding. Some movies touch your soul with the depth of their characters, ideas, or visual acrobatics. And some movies make you think really hard and examine yourself in a way you didn’t before. Snatch falls into none of these categories; it just makes you laugh.

Here’s the condition, though: it can’t make everyone laugh. There are some folks who will find the particular brand of comedy in Snatch to be completely unappealing. To really appreciate it, you need to forget all of your morals, hang-ups, and sensitivities for two hours. Make no mistake; Snatch doesn’t have a single redeeming character in it. That’s not the point. The point is simply to entertain you through presenting a wide array of characters that are so ridiculous, so over-the-top, and so not like real people that you can only laugh at their antics. And once you realize that fact, I think you’ll find that this is one of the funniest movies ever.

The plot of Snatch centers around two simultaneous stories. The first is of a stolen 86-karet diamond, and all the people trying to get their hands on it. The second is of an unlicensed boxing promoter (and his partner) and his debt to an unscrupulous gangster. The fact that it’s a British film, and that all the major characters in it are British (save two, an American and an Uzbekistani), really adds to the other-worldly-ness and catharsis of the comedy.

The plot is started rolling by Franky Four Fingers (Benicio Del Toro), when he holds up a Jewish precious stone storehouse and steals a diamond the size of a fist. A Russian named Boris the Blade (aka Boris the Bullet Dodger) recruits Vinny and Sol, two black jewelers, to steal the diamond for him. They prove to be blazingly incompetent, but through sheer luck, they end up with the diamond. At the same time, the American whom Franky stole the diamond for, Cousin Avi (Dennis Farina), comes to London to get the diamond from Franky, who doesn’t have it because Vinny and Sol stole it, who in turn gave it to Boris. Avi hires Bullet-Tooth Tony (Vinnie Jones) to track down Boris. Add to this a dog that likes to swallow non-edible objects and the fun just never stops. When Avi comes back to the states and a customs officer asks him if he has anything to declare, he responds, “yeah, don’t go to England!” Confused yet? That’s just one plot thread.

The other involves boxing promoter\penny arcade manager Turkish (Jason Statham), who has a fight coming up for boxing manager and gangster Brick Top (Alan Ford). Brick Top is not burdened by any type of morality, feeds men he has killed to pigs, and gets his jollies off of torturing dogs (in Britain, the only man worse than a pedophile is one who tortures dogs). Turkish sends his partner Tommy to buy a caravan (trailer mobile home) for him off a fast-talking gypsy named Mickey (Brad Pitt). Mickey cheats him, then offers to settle the debt by fighting with Gorgeous George (the man Tommy brought with him to see Mickey, and the boxer in Turkish’s upcoming fight). To Tommy’s surprise and dismay, Gorgeous George loses (and is hospitalized). Turkish decides to solve his dilemma of having lost Gorgeous by replacing him with Mickey, and agrees to buy Mickey’s mother a caravan if he will do the fight. Brick Top reluctantly agrees, but insists Mickey take a fall in the fourth round. Mickey, however, knocks his opponent out in the first round, screwing Brick Top. Deciding he wants to use Mickey again in the fight that will make back the money he lost, Brick Top motivates Mickey through dastardly means, but Mickey screws him again, and has a surprise in store for him. Turkish and Tommy are caught in the middle of all this, and through ridiculous circumstance, receive a windfall at the very end of the movie. If you’re still not confused, I’m very impressed. And don’t worry; the stories are connected in various places.

The acting is pretty good, but the focus is not on the acting. Standing out is Brad Pitt. He’s the most famous face in Snatch, but he doesn’t have the spotlight at all. His performance is insanely good, especially his accent-work (hint: I don’t mean British). The cinematography is pretty stylish and sharp, and the dialogue is among the smartest and most quick-witted out there. And if you have even a hint of Anglophile in you, this movie will send you into a sputtering incoherence of joy.

Obviously, Snatch is about very bad people and what happens to them. In an existential twist, what happens to them isn’t ruled by any over-riding morality, but instead by random chance. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, and sometimes it’s neither. The fact that the people involved in the story are people we don’t care about at all is one of the strengths of the movie, actually. Things come at them from left field, and some of them are deliciously goofy and unbelievable. Some results are bad, yes, but the characters never really get their comeuppance (except the ones who die). That fact can be viewed as tragic and unjust from one point of view, or hysterical from another. Personally, I choose the latter, and to really appreciate this movie, I think you have to.

Iconic lines (or exchanges):
“Never underestimate the predictability of stupidity.”

Turkish: “We’ve lost Gorgeous George.”
Brick Top: “You’re gonna have to repeat that.”
Turkish: “We’ve lost Gorgeous George.”
Brick Top: “Well, where’d you lose him? It’s not like he’s a set of f***ing car keys.”

“Find my friend a nice Jewish doctor!”

22 Rating: 18

Particle Man

Saturday, April 14, 2007


Greetings, TMBC-keteers! I was hoping to get this review of Grindhouse written and up on Friday, but you know how life is. Better late than never, right? And for those of you who were wondering why the latest joint from Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez turned in such a mediocre performance at the box-office this weeked, I'm going to shed some light on that, but, not in the way you expect.
As you've all read or heard, I'm sure, Grindhouse is a loving tribute to the low-rent type of cinema that you would see in the inner city, if at all. The bread and butter of the genre were various exploitation films, horror flicks, spaghetti westerns, etc. Robert Rodriguez's portion of the double feature, Planet Terror, is a mash-up of every zombie movie and R-rated action movie you've ever seen. Tarantino's portion, Death Proof, is an odd mix of car movie, slasher film, and women's lib riff. Both films have been artificially aged, with added crackles and print damage, and with "missing reels" at "inopportune" moments. Plus, there are fake trailers from the likes of Rob Zombie, Edgar Wright, and Eli Roth!
I should note that I saw Grindhouse in the best possible circumstances: in a crowded theater, two days before the official release date, on a Wednesday evening. While there were a few jokes that went over the heads of the crowd, they were pretty tuned in, for the most part.
Planet Terror revolves around a zombifying virus that has origins too bizarre to recount (and spoil...) here. Pulled together to combat this menace are El Wray (Freddy Rodriguez), a diminutive bad-ass with mysterious origins, Cherry (Rose McGowan), a former stripper who gets her leg gnawed off by the zombies, which turns out to be their mistake....Doctor Block (Marley Shelton), an anesthesiologist who becomes more and more unhinged throughout the film. Also appearing are Michael Biehn as the hard-assed sheriff, Tom Savini as the eventually doomed sheriff's assistant, Josh Brolin as Doctor Block's sinister husband, etc. PT is extremely well cast with actors who understand the material, and treat it with the appropriate performances (or lack thereof). It functioned as less of a parody for me, and more of a kick-ass, WAY over-the-top horror-comedy in the vein of Evil Dead II or Return of the Living Dead. Of the two features, PT is vastly superior to DP, and an extremely worthy follow-up to Sin City for Rodriguez.
Death Proof is the story of Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell), a psychotic movie stuntman who stalks and murders young women with his special "death-proof" car. It's tough for me to go into this section without using heavy spoilage, but I have to say that I was disappointed. I thought that Kill Bill Vol 2 was the best film QT had ever done, and DP was a mostly slow, EXTREMELY talky piece that was mostly a homage to the old grindhouse films tangentially. All the elements are there, but DP is like a QT film disguised as a grindhouse film. There is some stunning stuntwork from Kiwi stuntwoman and former Xena double Zoe Bell (playing herself in a great debut performance), and a long car chase towards the end of the film that more or less makes up for the talking, talking, and more talking. DP is definitely the My Dinner With Andre of the grindhouse set.
And the fake trailers? Glorious. Completely glorious. So glorious, I can't spoil them for you. Oddly enough, the only real nudity in the film is in two of the trailers. I will say this, though: Grindhouse gets a point shaved off of this review for not including the transcendant Hobo With a Shotgun trailer with it. You can YouTube HWAS, and I recommend you do.
What's the bad? There really isn't much bad that I found with GH, but the running time of 3 hours and 11 minutes definitely explains a thing or two about it's poor box-office performance. I would consider that a plus though, as the film is supposed to be a double-feature. That, and it might confuse people as to whether it's supposed to be funny, scary, or both. For those more sensitive audience members, most of PT, and bits of DP are insanely gory. I don't even want to contemplate how many times the damn thing went before the Puritanical MPAA. Consider yourself warned. But, if you were going to see it anyway, you're probably aware of that.
If it seems like I don't have a lot to say about Grindhouse......I don't. But you shouldn't consider that a bad thing. It delivers exactly what it promises to, with some breakout performances from Freddy Hernandez and Zoe Bell, and lots of solid performances from older actors, like Kurt Russell's creepily hilarious Stuntman Mike. I would give Death Proof a 10 and Planet Terror a 16. Add a few points from the fake trailers, and Grindhouse gets a solid 16 out of 22. I hope to see you at the "grindhouse," but I probably won't if you fall in step with the rest of America, which seems to consider Ice Cube and 3D Disney better entertainment. Boo, America.........