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“You Understand Me Now, Don’t You?” Guy Ritchie’s “Snatch” and the Chaos of Miscommunication…

This Saturday, I’ll be discussing Snatch on The 250, the weekly podcast that I co-host discussing the IMDb’s Top 250 Movies of All-Time. However, I had some thoughts on the film that I wanted to jot down first.

“Have I made myself clear, boys?”

“Yeah, that’s perfectly clear, Mickey. Yeah… just give me one minute to confer with my colleague.

“… did you understand a single word of what he just said?”

Guy Ritchie is an interesting director, in large part because there seems to be very little that actively defines “a Guy Ritchie film” outside of a few stylistic quirks.

Films like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch, Revolver, RocknRolla and The Gentlemen suggest a director fascinated with “hard men”, and some of this sensibility undoubtedly carries over into his blockbuster filmography, most obviously in the rambunctious stylings of Sherlock Holmes and most painfully in the attempts at grit in King Arthur. However, Ritchie has also spent a lot of time working as a director-for-hire on mainstream blockbusters worlds apart from that hypermasculinity, such as Swept Away, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. or Aladdin.

More than that, Ritchie’s work is more often recognised for its visual flourish rather than its thematic coherance, the director adopting a high-energy approach to camera movements and editing. Ritchie’s emerged from British independent cinema in the late nineties, and his work shares more than a few passing similarities to the work of young and hungry filmmakers working on the contemporary American scene. It is perhaps too much to describe Ritchie as “the British answer to Quentin Tarantino”, but it’s not entirely unfair either.

This is what makes Snatch such an interesting film. It is Ritchie’s second film, one that notably added some transatlantic flavour to the sensibilities of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Indeed, it’s tempting to write Snatch as an inferior copy of that earlier film, as a reiteration of that striking cinematic debut with extra Brad Pitt thrown in for marketability. After all, this was a particularly common line of criticism when the film was released. While there’s certainly some substance to this accusation, it overlooks the way in which Snatch makes its arguments much more clearly.

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Star Trek: Discovery – Choose Your Pain (Review)

Choose Your Pain is perhaps the most traditional episode of Star Trek: Discovery to date, at least in terms of basic structure.

One of the central tensions of Discovery has been trying to figure out exactly how much to modernise the standard Star Trek storytelling template, the basic model of storytelling that has been in play through Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Enterprise. These shows were produced over an eighteen-year period running from the second half of the eighties through to the turn of the millennium. However, a lot has happened in the twelve years since These Are the Voyages…

Avenging angel Gabriel.

Quite simply, television has changed phenomenally over the past decade. A number of these changes are obvious even in the way that Discovery is produced. After all, Discovery is the first Star Trek show to premiere on a streaming service. However, Discovery also conforms to other expectations of contemporary television. Discovery is much more tightly serialised than The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine or Voyager. Discovery is also the shortest season of Star Trek ever produced.

There is a sense that times are changing, and that Discovery is attempting to provide an early twenty-first century update to a thirty-year-old template. After all, no other Star Trek series opened its first season with a two-episode prologue before introducing its core setting and premise. No other Star Trek series feature as many extended sequences with characters speaking subtitled Klingon. No other Star Trek series has featured swear words like “piss”, “sh!t” or “f$@k.” These are all new frontiers for televised Star Trek.

An echo chamber.

At the same time, Discovery has proven itself remarkably conservative in other respects. Although the show is very clearly serialised, the production team have worked hard to ensure that each individual episode has its own plot with its own structure and its own agenda. Unlike other streaming dramas, the episodes of Discovery are clear and distinct from one another, each serving as a bullet point in the overall arc of the season. Similarly, Discovery has made a point to use standard Star Trek narratives imbued with standard Star Trek morals built in.

For all the noise being made in certain quarters of the internet that Discovery is not really a Star Trek series, Choose Your Pain is the most conservative and old-fashioned episode of the series to date. Choose Your Pain is an episode that could easily have worked as part of Deep Space Nine or Enterprise, preserving the structure and rhythm with only a few minor tweaks along the way. Ironically, the episode’s biggest issue is that it feels just a little bit too much like classic Star Trek.

Here’s Mudd in your eye.

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