Life With An Action Hero

It probably wasn't Guy Ritchie's plan, but Snatch turns out to be a pretty interesting take on what life is like when you run into an action hero.

Destructive, frightening and painful.

Mickey the bare-knuckle champion is the action hero of this piece, with Turkish and Tommy the hapless witnesses to his action story. Mickey never makes a misstep. He wins every bet, every fight, and when wrongs are done to him he delivers retribution. He is as unstoppable as the Terminator or Rambo.

But he's not the center of this little story. No, sir. Snatch is much more interested in what it's like being in the wake of this whirlwind of will. And it's not inspiring or life-affirming. Turkish and Tommy are, if they're affected at all (it's not exactly clear), left embittered and angry once Mickey roars off with his incomprehensible friends.

They do get a reward, eventually, but that's pure luck. Or rather, that's the just working-out of the universe Snatch describes: a universe where everyone pretty much gets what's coming to them.

Sort of like Josie And The Pussycats (THERE'S a leap for you), only in the case of Snatch no higher power is posited, guiding things. Things just work out because... well, they just do. The really violent people (even if we kind of like them) die violent deaths, the sort-of-bad-guys-but-not-really-hard-enough-and-kind-of-softies-besides get arrested but we know they won't suffer too much, and our heroes, in the end stumble onto a bit of payback.

And it's all very satisfying, isn't it? The story does keep things moving along quickly enough, no kidding (okay, maybe here's a follow-up to the great Hong Kong movies of the 80's and 90's), and it twists and turns with sufficient lightness. and as noted above, delivers to each of the characters an appropriate fate.

Except the dog. I think the dog gets off pretty easy.

The rawest scene in the whole film is, I find, the card game Turkish and Tommy and Gorgeous George play, as Tommy is fretting about what's about to happen. And for every scenario he comes up with Turkish replies, "We get murdered before we leave the building. And I expect we get fed to the pigs." When Turkish finally does lose his temper with Tommy and snarls, "It's not as though we've got a choice, is it?" he is giving voice to the worst fear and frustration we all feel. That we have no choice, that we are powerless to impact the wild swings of fate, the enmity of evil and the malice of our fellow folks. That we are helpless.

This despair is countered by Mickey, who creates his own fate and cares nothing for those he rolls over on the way. Mickey does not feel powerless. He is not frustrated. He acts to change things, to redress injustice. He is freedom and will incarnate, existing entirely outside the rules of society that constrain the rest of us. Turkish and Tommy rush to find him after all has fallen apart, but there's no trace of him. They cannot join him, and they cannot compel him. They can't even catch up with him.

But there and then, right at the moment of failure, Turkish and Tommy are confronted with potential disaster when the cops start asking questions. Turkish has a moment of inspiration as a new element (left by Mickey's people) enters the scene. So maybe it's not all accepting the vagaries of fate and resigning oneself to helplessness. Maybe in the throat of a squeaky dog, there's hope. And maybe an action hero CAN inspire, and not even in a hokey, simplistic sort of fashion, neither.

Or maybe Guy Ritchie just wants to encourage people to look after their dogs better. Hard to say.