Magazine article The Spectator

Swagger Culture

Magazine article The Spectator

Swagger Culture

Article excerpt

Cinema

Snatch

(18, selected cinemas)

Is Guy Ritchie merely John Lloyd to Madonna's Chris Evert? Or in this AngloAmerican special relationship is the anglo half keeping its end up? Snatch is Ritchie's second feature but, like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, it somehow keeps evoking Madonna's principal contribution to the English language: 'wannabe', the neologism coined for her young fans of long ago. You hear it most explicitly in the scene where Vinnie Jones, playing Bullet Tooth Tony, is confronted by a trio of gun-toting balaclava-sheathed black men. `Which one of you is the dick and which ones are the balls?' says Vinnie.

Nice. The accent helps, too. In the midNineties, multitudes of Taranteenyboppers emerged from the world's film schools, but only Ritchie has successfully imported the techniques (the unfelt violence, the conversational trivialities) to his own - what's the word? - ah, yes, manor. But Ritchie's wannabe routine wouldn't be half so effective if it wasn't centrally positioned in a veritable Olympic emblem of conjoined rings of wannabes. There is, most importantly, the audience: contemporary British culture is distinguished (if that's the word) for its downwardly mobile aspirations, and never more so than in the pathetic fascination of middle-class 'lads' for the world of East End hard-case geezers. One is reminded of the swanky Park Avenue set slumming in 1920s Harlem. This would seem to be literally true in Ritchie's case: he is, I gather, the stepson of a baronet, though for all I know they may be more common in Tower Hamlets than one might assume.

Anyway, the director's ambitions are assisted by the cred-hungry Brad Pitt: you're a bona fide Hollywood star, you're all over People magazine, you've played opposite Harrison Ford, you wake up every morning next to Rachel from Friends, you get gazillions of dollars to appear in bigtime formula junk, but you know that none of it's worth a damn without the cachet of appearing in a gritty, low-budget, fauxindie Britpic for a hundredth of your usual salary. Brad apparently begged Guy Ritchie to let him be in this film: maybe it was the opportunity to work with Mike Reid; maybe Brad liked what Mike did in EastEnders, or maybe he's a fan of Mike's Cockney cover version of `The Ugly Duckling'. Maybe he originally wanted Mike instead of Harrison Ford for The Devil's Own, but they fell out over billing. …

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