A riff on the 2000 film stars Rupert Grint as a second-rate hustler
Guy Ritchie’s 2000 film “Snatch” would not be my first pick for a movie that could be massaged into a television franchise — one with 10 hourlong episodes in the bag and possible future seasons lurking on the horizon. The film is a comedy of capers, where crooked hustlers from every walk of life descend on London to pursue their own selfish ends — whether that’s a caravan, a dog, a couple thousand pounds, or a diamond the size of a fist. It’s a film dependent on a tight, expertly woven narrative to feel like more than a mess — and because of its showy, razor-sharp editing, it makes for a violent urban romp that is ineffably cool, even as it reveals its characters’ fundamental, pathetic stupidity.
“Snatch,” the Crackle show, imports the general subject matter — small-time crooks, jewels, fixed underground boxing matches — and visual and auditory style of the film — smash cuts, ballsy electric guitars, and working-class accents. But because the 10-hour series is almost six times longer than the 104-minute film, it functionally cannot import the jerky, careening plotting — that plotting which goes so far towards explaining what it feels like when a small-time scheme starts to snowball into something bigger and much more dangerous.
To its credit, “Snatch” the show is one of the better riffs on an original idea you’ll see on television, owing partly to its young and talented cast and partly to a few tweaks to the formula. But it’s still irritatingly derivative, when no derivation was really necessary. The first episode gets a half-hour in before slowing down for an overlong fight scene in an illegal boxing match, with all the drama resting on how and when the boxer was going to purposely lose. The second episode has three Hasids on molly flaunting their smuggled diamonds at a strip club. Where Ritchie’s film had to economize its time expenditure — and could ruthlessly stylize about-to-be-disposable characters with a bit more leeway — in “Snatch” the show, these two scenes are just reminders that the film did it better.
Still, the show is mindful of storytelling, and in wandering from perspective to perspective, the show introduces a few setpieces and characters that are intriguing. The least interesting of the leads is star Rupert Grint’s dunderheaded Charlie, a slightly posh second-fiddle with a philandering mum and a weed-growing dad. Albert (Luke Pasqualino), the Turkish to Charlie’s Tommy, is a lifelong criminal with a father serving time for stealing gold bullion and a beautifully hatchet-faced mother who is laundering designer shirts through her florist shop. Rounding out the trio is Billy (Lucien Laviscount), Albert’s boxer in the ring who happens to have very pretty eyelashes.
“Snatch” has a couple of older characters worth noticing — specifically, Albert’s parents, Vic (Dougray Scott) and Lily (Juliet Aubrey), who squabble with each other and Albert over how to carry on the family legacy. But otherwise the series is a kind of halfway house for actors from teen franchises who want to step into more adult roles. Grint comes from “Harry Potter,” Pasqualino from “Skins,” Laviscount from “Scream Queens.” Ed Westwick, who plays the villainous Sonny, is from “Gossip Girl.” That might go towards explaining why so much of the storytelling seems to be about wrangling parents and bosses — why the criminal scene of London is a bunch of kids nicking legitimacy from their elders. It’s an element of the show that isn’t in the film, and though it runs counter to the film’s general nihilism, it’s at least a story, instead of just pandering callbacks to the film.
The other element of the show that is not really in the film is the presence of lead female characters — played by Aubrey, Phoebe Dynevor, and Stephanie Leonidas, who are all romantically paired with one of the male leads by the end of the second episode. Here, “Snatch” digs into some depressingly basic crime-girl tropes. Dynevor — who gets the most screentime as beautiful gangster-girlfriend Lotti — is by turns either exploited, playing a long-con, a victim of abuse, or a cheerful masochist. Whatever goodwill the show earns with creative storytelling with its former teen stars is lost in how predictably stereotypical it is with its women.
“Snatch” is, at least, a punchy, adventurous show, with a distinct if openly derivative visual style. The theme music is such a close homage to Oasis’ “F—king in the Bushes,” which scores the momentous final act of the film, that it’s almost possible to close your eyes and not know the difference. That seems to be the type of success that the show can best hope for — and with a few interesting elements here and there, it may well succeed. As far as fan-fiction goes, it’s splendid fun, with performers that are enjoying their romp through carefree capers. But it’s hard not to feel like everyone involved in “Snatch” is just auditioning for parts in a film that was made over 15 years ago, as if wishing really hard might make it possible.