The crew of semi-anonymous British TV veterans behind the Crackle series Snatch have stumbled into the kind of job that gets pawned off on patsies and chumps: turn the Guy Ritchie movie of the same title into a crime series with the approximate production value of a Guy Ritchie-influenced student film. Like most recent film-to-series adaptations, be it Fargo or Training Day, it’s not based on the source material, but loosely inspired by it—though that might be an understatement, seeing as how this new Snatch prostrates itself at the altar of Ritchie’s early work. Its every sped-up camera movement is accompanied by a whoosh sound effect that will whip viewers of a certain age right back to a time in the early 2000s when this stuff was what passed for stylishness. So will the broad ethnic stereotypes and the strained mouthfuls of attempted Cockney dialogue. “You’ve been tap-dancing around me quicker than Fred Astaire on nose candy” is about as good as it gets.
The focus here is on Albert Hill (Luke Pasqualino), a small-time crook and boxing promoter who lives on a barge and conducts business out of the back of his mother’s flower shop, the Lone Arranger. The two episodes available for preview (both written by series creator Alex De Rakoff and directed by Nick Renton) follow the Ritchie formula of get-rich-quick schemes going awry, dragging in more and more parties until everyone is in the same room pointing guns at each other. (Presumably, Snatch is saving that for the finale.) In the first episode alone, Albert and his partners-in-crime Billy Ayres (Lucien Laviscount, sporting one of the worst fake tattoos to grace the small screen) and Charlie Cavendish-Scott (Rupert Grint) get involved with a fixed boxing match and accidentally steal a van full of gold bars while trying to get back at a coked-up Cuban mobster Sonny Castillo (Ed Westwick). In the second, they get hired to chaperone some Orthodox Jewish diamond dealers with similarly disastrous results. Apparently, you can make do without Guy Ritchie or Jason Statham, but it’s just not Snatch without boxing and Jews.
None of this will be unfamiliar for anyone who suffered through the era when all English-language crime movies were aping Tarantino or Ritchie. De Rakoff—whose major credits consist of the direct-to-video Ritchie knockoff Dead Man Running and the goofy-as-hell live-action intro to Grand Theft Auto 2—seems to live for derivative, undigested pulp. And if the series, with its random cuts and meaningless Steadicam shots, never looks like anything more than a store-brand substitute made by BBC journeymen who will just as easily move on to whatever Doctor Who episodes or Thomas Hardy adaptations they have booked next, it’s at least committed to keeping things zipping along. It’s a small virtue, but it matters. If you can’t give your audience something original or interesting to look at, then at least don’t make them wait.
The trade-off of the relatively fast-paced plotting is that, even after just two episodes, Snatch begins to struggle with an increasingly unmanageable cast of characters: Albert’s imprisoned father, Vic (Dougray Scott), a well-known bank robber; his patient mother Lily (Juliet Aubrey); Sonny Castillo’s girlfriend Lotti (Phoebe Dynevor); local diamond salesman and crime boss Saul Gold (Henry Goodman). That doesn’t even cover all of the regulars in the opening credits. But the only memorable one is Grint’s bow-tie-wearing Charlie, an upper-class aesthete among the roughs, introduced in the middle of a scam to sell cheap vodka as artisanal spirits. Though still in his 20s, Grint has somehow perfected the voice and bearing of a 40-ish character actor. One almost wants to say that his performance deserves more interesting material, but seeing as Grint executive-produced Snatch and previously starred in the wearing Moonwalkers, it appears that he just really likes bland Guy Ritchie knockoffs.