Two episodes were provided for review prior to broadcast.
Few directors have enjoyed an opening one-two like Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, crime capers that starred lovable rogues exploring the underbelly of London. The latter is now being adapted into a TV series by the beautifully-named network Crackle, but as it turns out, it has little to do with its namesake, telling a fresh story in modern London with a new all-star cast who’ve walked straight out of the pages of a girl’s fantasy scrapbook.
Where Ritchie’s Snatch gave us tough guys like Vinnie Jones and Jason Statham, here we get hunky Luke Pasqualino of Skins fame, Gossip Girl’s Ed Westwick and even
Ron Rupert Grint in the role of aristocratic bumbleton Charlie Cavendish-Scott. Seriously, I wouldn’t be surprised if Hoult, Radcliffe and Harington are lined up for future episodes.
The show begins by introducing Pasqualino’s character (Albie) via a childhood flashback. Dad’s home, and would you know it, he’s brought the cops with him. Albie leans in close to listen to his father, Vic, impart a final kernel of wisdom: if you want something in life, don’t bother working for it, says Vic – grab it instead. Back to present day, Vic’s behind bars and Albie is trying to ignore any more of his advice, though dad likes to keep tabs on his son via regular video calls, setting the show firmly within a social media age.
With Albie now an adult, he’s working together with associate Charlie to sell moonshine to anyone they dare and trying to forge a respectable career as boxing promoter to up-and-coming slugger Billy Ayres (Lucien Laviscount). Billy’s on an unbeaten boxing streak but in a nod to the original Snatch, he’s asked to take a dive. Needless to say, plans fall by the wayside and by the end of the opening episode, the boys need quick cash. They trouble themselves with a gold heist, but wind up with the wrong gold; a play borrowed from the book of Ritchie’s best story, Lock, Stock.
These references aside, Snatch the TV show has little else to do with Ritchie’s early work. The fresh-faced cast are a far cry from messers Statham, Jones and co., and there’s a concerted effort to appeal to a crowd reared on Facebook, Instagram and Youtube. That’s fine, but if you’re someone born before 2000 and remember the film fondly, you’ll feel out of place.
Still, there’s a jolly atmosphere established in the early going, orchestrated by snappy cuts and Ritchie-esque close ups. Billy’s boxing match takes center stage early; a gladiatorial slug fest with slow-mo shots of spit and blood flying, hooks landing and crunching body blows. It’s kinetic stuff.
The actors are similarly energetic and lead the line well. Pasqualino is fresh-faced and amiable, while Grint is of highbrow snobbish stock with lowbrow ambitions. Albie’s dad, Vic, is played by the wonderful Dougray Scott, an actor with a chameleon-like quality and the ability to be both charming and villainous. Perhaps the one low point is Ed Westwick in the role of a Cuban gangster, Sonny Castillo. Quite what the casting director was thinking I’m not sure, but while Westwick might make the girls swoon, he’s hardly hardy; more a puppy dog on heat, rubbing cocaine on his gums and slapping bums. Better adversaries might yet emerge, but if Westwick is the best they’ve got, I’m less than impressed.
By episode two, Albie, Charlie and Billy have got Castillo in their sights, but when they steal the wrong gold they’re introduced to a fresh set of seedy characters. Matters are complicated by femme fatale Lotti Mott (newcomer Phoebe Dynevor) who plays Castillo’s unloved girlfriend.
The pieces are arranged then and neatly in place, but while and Snatch apes the strut, swagger and bravado of its namesake, it’s hard to escape the feeling that it’s rather more Gossip Girl than Guy Ritchie.
In the end, Snatch the TV series is a straightforward play on cleverer song. The murky lines of morality that made the film such fun told us something about society, too: that rules aren’t always better obeyed, and that being an outcast can be a great deal of fun. This new version has too much colour and too little bite. Ritchie’s fans will want to steer clear, while anyone wanting an hour-long distraction will find something to like, if only because of the pretty faces on screen.
Snatch the TV show bears little resemblance to the show that inspired it. Telling a new story is fine and well, but it’s harder to justify when the DNA has been changed. This new incarnation gets the energy right, but has none of the bite.