I didn’t really know what to expect going into Crackle’s SNATCH, having not really heard anything about it prior to watching and also never having seen the cult movie on which it’s based. My basic understanding was pretty simple: con artists, Freddie from Skins, the prince from Ever After, and Ron Weasley. All of these things are good, so while I wasn’t exactly expecting a masterpiece, I was expecting to enjoy it. And hey, so far, so good.
Snatch follows Albert Hill, the son of a sort of devil may care bank robber who found himself in jail for a couple decades following the botched theft of a bunch of gold. The details of this are scant and delivered in flashbacks and snippets of conversation between Vic (Al’s father) and Lil (Al’s mother). The gold was supposed to be the Hill family’s ticket out to a life on the Spanish coast eating off of silver spoons, but instead Vic ended up in jail, and Al ended up following in his footsteps…badly.
Flanked by his friends Charlie (Rupert Grint) and Billy (the most beautiful man I have ever seen), Al is trying to live up to his father’s criminal enterprises. Instead, at the opening of the series, we find him on the back foot with a loan shark. In order to pay the money back, Al, along with overbearing Vic who has all sorts of extravagant prison privileges by virtue of his reputation, concocts a plan for Billy, a prizefighter, to throw the first few rounds of his upcoming fight in order for them to make a killing betting on him to win the final round with Vic’s stashed rainy day money.
The antagonist of the piece is Sonny Castillo, played by Ed Westwick. Although they at one point call him a “wannabe Cuban”, he’s definitely supposed to be Cuban. “Cuban born, Miami raised,” according to interviews with Westwick, which is baffling, since Ed Westwick is a white guy. Not totally sure why Crackle hasn’t got the memo that casting white people as people of color is a strange, dated, offensive thing to do, but hey: Crackle, casting white people as people of color is a strange, dated, offensive thing to do.
Sonny’s girlfriend, Lottie Mott, is savvy, sharp, and a little bit crazy. She’s one of those characters that I personally love automatically — women who bite when backed into corners and rarely let themselves get backed in anywhere to begin with, women who are just a liiiiittle bit camp, women who can manipulate the people around them like breathing.
But also let’s be clear. This show doesn’t have a single female writer, according to IMDB.
There are nuanced, complex, deeply political reasons a woman, or female character, might have the behaviors that Lottie does, and I’m very interested in these. But when I see this character being written by a bunch of men, almost without fail the intent is for her to be a “strong sexy female character” instead of a complicated, dynamic human being, and that’s very much how I feel watching this. She also immediately goes from Sonny’s girlfriend to Billy’s love interest when she gets fed up with Sonny’s schtick and goes to Al, Sonny, and Ed with a plan.
Al ends up even further in debt when Billy botches the plan at the fight, and so when Lottie goes to them with the details of a shipment of cash Sonny’s making and tells them to rob it, they hop on board with her plan. Meanwhile, Charlie steals an old family heirloom and sells it to Chloe Koen, the American girl who works for the local jeweler slash Jewish gangster, Sal Gold — she’s shrewd and knows her stuff, and will be important later.
The guys manage to rob the wrong truck, and instead of Sonny’s shipment, they get a literal truckload of gold. It becomes clear later that it’s somehow the same gold that presumably ruined Vic’s life, but by the end of the fourth episode, the only person who’s realized this is Lil, Al’s mom, and she’s mostly concerned that her son seems to be in over his head.
While they’re looking for some way to fence the gold, they take a side job for Sal Gold, ensuring the delivery of some diamonds when they arrive with three men from the airport. They obviously fail at this when the three guys — at first seeming to be very conservative Jewish guys — take some Molly and derail the trip to venture into a strip club. One of the strippers sees the diamonds, and calls Sonny Castillo, who steals them. This puts Al even deeper in the hole: he owes the original loan shark, he owes Vic his rainy day money, and now he has to get Sal’s diamonds back or Sal promises to make him a eunuch.
Luckily, this is where Chloe comes back in — she knows how to sell the gold, and so takes Al and Charlie to the US to fence it inconspicuously. While they’re gone, Billy calls in a favor to his father’s Romany friends or family to save their safecracker, who’s been captured by Sonny Castillo, and to get the safe with the diamonds out of Sonny’s place. It works out smoothly and they get the diamonds back, and also Billy gets to make peace with the Romany he’s been avoiding due to a lack of connection with his father, who died tragically when Billy was young.
In America, Chloe comes through, and after running into the diamond guys who save them from a tight situation in recompense for letting them run wild, they get their money, and now have enough to at least break even, and return the diamonds to Sal by the end of episode four. Downside is, of course, there’s a cop who used to be after Vic on their tails, after recognizing Charlie’s family crest on slippers he was wearing during the robbery.
If it seems like this show was simple to summarize, that’s because it was. It’s a pretty straightforward premise — Al tries to do something, something silly happens to mess it up, and then in a series of sharply cut shots set against hip hop music, everything gets fixed. Deep and complex, Snatch is not. What it is, is fun.
There are lots of moments where some emotional depth could’ve been mined to greater impact — the actors are all very solid, and it seems a shame that Al especially isn’t given more time to react and process things. It seems we’re always being shuffled along to the next bit of action, which is fine and suitably fast paced, but it gets a little frustrating over time because it’s easy to see the plot points and emotional beats that could’ve been augmented for some really fantastic stuff, instead of just fun. The actors are all pretty seriously great, and the dialogue is creative and smart without being strident — it’s just that I come away from every episode feeling like I took one of those glass-bottom boat cruises through a coral reef instead of snorkeling, or better, diving right in.
If there’s a Leverage-sized hole in your heart, this is definitely a show to try out, just don’t expect to feel too much beyond being along for the ride.
Season 1, Episode 1-4 (S01E01-04)
Catch streams on Crackle now
Alyssa Thorne | Contributor