THE ACCELERATION of culture is an amazing thing. I mean, remember the '90s? During that decade, for a few years anyway, culture that had been consigned to the sidelines, like punk rock and indie film, briefly became as popular as the stuff to which it had once provided an alternative for the more discerning. That was a heady time, though it is safely in the past now that the cheerleaders and football-team captains of the world have regained their rightful place at the steering wheel of the culture industry.
directed by Guy Ritchie with Benicio Del Toro, Dennis Farina, Vinnie Jones, and Brad Pitt at Factoria, Meridian, and Metro
Well, Guy Ritchie remembers the '90s—in fact, he was there. And despite his marriage to '80s icon Madonna, Ritchie is fast becoming our premier '90s revivalist. Like his previous film, 1998's Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, the new Snatch fuses elements of two of that decade's best-loved movies, Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction and Danny Boyle's Trainspotting, into one crowd-pleasing supermovie that still retains some of that "alternative" '90s feel. Set in London, Snatch is a caper about thugs from various backgrounds (German, American, Gypsy). They do seedy things like beat and torture and kill one another and occasional passersby, but they're actually really lovable because they say all kinds of snappy, well-rehearsed one-liners. And they have real tough-guy names, like Boris the Blade (Rade Serbidjiza) and Franky Four Fingers (Benicio Del Toro) and Bullet Tooth Tony (Vinnie Jones). All of them are after a really large diamond, except for Mickey (Brad Pitt), who seems to be having more fun than anyone else in the movie, probably because his role as an incoherently babbling Gypsy boxer is sillier than anyone else's—in this movie, a considerable achievement.
But the '90s are over. The dynamic charge we once got out of seeing movies that didn't reek of script-doctor pandering but were writ large enough to overtake the multiplexes anyway has abated. A shamelessly derivative movie like Snatch may be monumentally preferable to a shamelessly derivative movie like, say, Dude, Where's My Car?, because it robs from richer sources (not to mention that, all questions of cultural import aside, Ritchie's film is far more entertaining). But a good movie you've seen before is still a movie you've seen before. We've accelerated so far that we're right back where we started from.