Dungeon Classics #12: Snatch

FilmDungeon’s Chief Editor JK sorts through the Dungeon’s DVD-collection to look for old cult favorites….

Snatch (2000, UK | USA)

Director: Guy Ritchie
Cast: Jason Statham, Stephen Graham, Brad Pitt, Alan Ford
Running Time: 104 mins.

Two years after his formidable debut Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Guy Ritchie, now one of the hottest new directors around, returned with Snatch: a crime comedy with exactly the same formula. Poker is replaced with bare knuckle boxing, stolen antique rifles became a stolen diamond, and Big Chris is renamed Bullet Tooth Tony. The visual gimmickry is still there. And a few cast members returned, most notably Jason Statham, now as leading man. Ritchie had more money this time around, so he could also hire A-listers like Brad Pitt and Benicio Del Toro. Both are great as usual, but Pitt plays one of his most memorable roles ever as Mickey, a ‘pikey’ boxer with an indecipherable accent. What also returns most prominently is the humour. Snatch has sequences – like the black guys attempt to rob the bookies – that will make you piss your pants. It’s one of the funniest crime movies ever made. And the dialogues are one of a kind. In short, Snatch is 86 carats. Or is it 84?

Film Review: The Funeral (1996)


‘One family, one murder, too many lies’

Directed by:
Abel Ferrara

Written by:
Nicholas St. John

Cast:
Christopher Walken (Ray), Chris Penn (Chez), Annabella Sciorra (Jean), Isabella Rossellini (Clara), Vincent Gallo (Johnny), Benicio Del Toro (Gaspare), Gretchen Mol (Helen), John Ventimiglia (Sali), Paul Hipp (Ghouly), Victor Argo (Julius)

Abel Ferrara is an interesting director and The Funeral – his second gangster film after King of New York (1990) – is an a-typical, but interesting film that is set in the 1930’s. Christopher Walken plays Ray Tempio, boss of a mob clan. His young brother was killed and the body is brought to his house where relatives and associates gather for what will be a three day funeral.

Soon, his other brother Chez (Chris Penn) arrives, a hothead who’s mentally unstable. The brothers want to go after the killer and their suspect number one is gangster Gaspare (Benicio Del Toro).

Through flashbacks we learn more about the Tempios although it is hardly information overload. Ferrara and his regular screenwriter St. John are holding back! But first the positive points. The film is shot beautifully. From the images of mourning relations to the gangster nightlife that is portrayed, it all looks stunning. Also, performances are great all around. Two cast members deserve special mention. Chris Penn gives a career best performance as the craziest mobsters ever. And Annabella Sciorra is truly excellent as Ray’s wife Jean, who is openly critical of the gangster lifestyle.

What I am less thrilled about is the build-up. The movie ends with a dramatic act by Chez, but it is not really clear how he comes to this act, apart from the fact that he is crazy. We are not given enough pieces to work out this psychological puzzle. Same for the youth flashbacks from Ray. It is obvious that they have impacted him greatly, but exactly how remains elusive. Is the screenwriting the problem here? Or does Ferrara just enjoy leaving things a little vague? Judging by most of his films, it is the latter. Normally, this is good. A true artist knows as well what to leave out as what to put in. But this time he used the scissors too rigorously.

Rating:

Quote
JEAN: “They’re criminals, and there’s absolutely nothing romantic about it.”

Trivia
In 2009, Empire Magazine named The Funeral #16 in a poll of the ‘20 Greatest Gangster Movies You’ve Never Seen (Probably)’.

Hunter Goes to Hollywood: Hunter S. Thompson Triple Bill

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Who’s Hunter? Hunter Stockton Thompson (1937 – 2005) was an American journalist and inventor of Gonzo Journalism, a form of New Journalism. His persona and works inspired three Hollywood movies and several documentaries.

1. Where the Buffalo Roam (1980, USA)

Director: Art Linson
Written by: Hunter S. Thompson (stories), John Kaye (screenplay)
Cast: Bill Murray, Peter Boyle, Bruno Kirby, R.G. Armstrong

Running Time: 95 mins.

‘I hate to advocate weird chemicals, alcohol, violence or insanity to anyone, but in my case it’s worked.’

Where the Buffalo Roam is the first movie adaptation of the work of legendary Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, who is portrayed by Bill Murray in the movie. The story deals with Thompson’s encounters with his equally legendary ‘mutant’ attorney Oscar Zeta Acosta, who is called Carl Lazlo here and is portrayed by Peter Boyle. The movie is based on Thompson’s obituary for his attorney who disappeared in Mexico in 1974, three years after their two trips to Las Vegas that were immortalized in Thompson’s masterpiece Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

Screenplay writer John Kaye also drew from other works of Thompson, including Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail 72’ and The Great Shark Hunt. The final result depicts three journalistic adventures of Thompson in which Lazlo shows up. The first one involves San Francisco drug trials in which Lazlo represents wrongfully indicted youngsters. The second story shows Thompson missing the Super Bowl to accompany Lazlo on a failed activist mission. Finally, Thompson is seen on the presidential campaign where he has a one-on-one encounter with his arch enemy Richard Nixon.

Most of the people involved, including Thompson himself, didn’t like the final result or even hated the movie. It is easy to see why. Much of Thompson’s razor sharp journalism resorts into a bunch of silliness. Especially the second half is very uneven. Still, it is a lot of fun hearing a number of great Thompson quotes being uttered by Bill Murray, who’s excellent in the role of Gonzo journalist. Boyle is also enjoyable as his dope crazed attorney.

As a whole, the movie is indeed too silly to be perceived a success or an effective movie translation of Thompson’s writing. However, separate parts range from funny to almost great. Especially the sequences in which Thompson has to meet deadlines, but is too preoccupied with weirdness and dope frenzies. Also includes an excellent soundtrack featuring: Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix and Creedence Clearwater Revival.

Gonzo Rating:

2. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998, USA)

Director: Terry Gilliam
Written by: Hunter S. Thompson (book), Terry Gilliam (screenplay), Tony Grisoni (screenplay), Tod Davies (screenplay), Alex Cox (screenplay)
Cast: Johnny Depp, Benicio Del Toro, lot’s of cameo’s including; Tobey Maguire, Gary Busey, Ellen Barkin, Christina Ricci, Cameron Diaz, Flea and Harry Dean Stanton

Running Time: 118 mins.

It is the foul year of our lord 1971 and Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson (Raoul Duke in the story) and his Samoan attorney Dr. Gonzo decide to undertake the ultimate trip of the seventies. The official assignment is to cover the Mint 400 desert race in Las Vegas, but they have something bigger in mind. They want to find the American dream. Armed to the teeth with highly dangerous narcotics, they head out to Las Vegas in their fire red convertible… Some trip it’s gonna be.

While searching for the American dream, Thompson and Dr. Gonzo only find fear and loathing. Intolerable vibrations in a town not at all suitable for the use of psychedelic drugs. The atmosphere is extremely menacing, but as they behave as animals, nobody even notices them. Vegas turns out to be a truly savage town. And while soldiers are dying in Vietnam, used car dealers from Dallas throw their money in the slot machines, Debbie Reynolds sings in the Desert Inn and the national police force meets on a congress about marijuana. Thompson and Dr. Gonzo are there…

Thompson’s novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, that was first published in two parts in Rolling Stone Magazine, became a cultural phenomenon (and my personal favorite book of all time). The movie adaptation by Terry Gilliam is a literal one. Thompson wrote his famous novel Gonzo style, which means the events are told through the eyes and vision of the author who fully participates in the story himself. Since Thompson was heavily under the influence during the writing process, he claims he can’t fully remember which parts truly happened and which ones did not (fully). Therefore this literal adaptation is a highly enjoyable blast, though not always realistic.

There is one downside to director Gilliam’s literal approach. In the novel, all the psychedelic escapades form an integral part of what is obviously a literary masterpiece. In the translation to film however, these escapades sometimes appear to be useless fuckarounds, especially during the final part of the film. However, that is a minor criticism for this is obviously a highly enjoyable movie. Depp and Del Toro are both terrific in their method acting approaches to their roles. Thompson’s poetic writing, beautifully spoken by Depp in voiceover, runs through the movie that captures the era and paranoid nightmare perfectly. Combined with a beautiful seventies soundtrack and Grade A settings, the great time capsule that is Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is complete. Also, it is one of the funniest movies of all time. So buy the ticket and take the ride.

Gonzo Rating:


3. The Rum Diary (2011, USA)

Director: Bruce Robinson
Written by: Bruce Robinson (screenplay), Hunter S. Thompson (novel)
Cast: Johnny Depp, Amber Heard, Michael Rispoli, Aaron Eckhart

Running Time: 115 mins.

The title The Rum Diary can mean two things. Hunter S Thompson’s novel that is told in this movie or The San Juan Star, the near bankrupt Puerto Rican newspaper where main character Paul Kemp (Thompson’s alter ego) takes a job as journalist. Why? Because the entire writing staff is completely drunk. The same seems to apply for the whole population of Puerto Rico in the 1960’s, the setting of The Rum Diary.

This is a story about alcohol and lots of it. But, whenever Kemp takes time off of drinking, he engages in a compelling journalistic endeavour, shining light on the culture and problems of the relatively unknown country he resides in. This is also a love story. Kemp falls head over heels for the stunning Chenault, girlfriend of corrupt businessman Sanderson, who wants Kemp to write stories in favour of his unethical real estate plans.

Kemp’s dilemma, going along with the flow or exposing the ‘bastards’ as he puts it, is the backbone of this movie. The pace is as relaxed as the setting and director Robinson succeeds well in translating the mood of Thompson’s novel to the white screen. The cast is on a roll as well. Depp, who once said he would like to play Thompson every few years, is solid as always. He gets excellent comic support from press associates Michael Rispoli, Richard Jenkins and Giovanni Ribisi. Amber Heard and Aaron Eckhart play Chenault and Sanderson, whose characters add the necessary intrigue and substance to the story.

Obviously this is no Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and the drug fueled craziness portrayed in that movie is largely absent. This is Thompson Light; a smaller movie without too much excessive behavior. Director Robinson did add one pretty funny drug scene that can be considered as a wink to big brother Fear and Loathing. In The Rum Diary, a novel that Thompson wrote many years before his Vegas-masterpiece, the author was still searching for his unique voice and it is pleasant to join him on this quest. It is best to keep some rum within reach though as you might get thirsty underway…

Gonzo Rating:

For Dutch speaking Thompson aficionados, check out also:
De Hunter S. Thompson kronieken
Blasted!!! The Gonzo Patriots of Hunter S. Thompson SH-2007
Dromen en dronken deliriums in San Juan (Over ‘The Rum Diary’ van Hunter S. Thompson)
Een authentieke dichtbij-opname van de Hell’s Angels (door Hunter S. Thompson)
Hunter S. Thompson in 1970 – Decadentie en verderfelijkheid in het Zuiden
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: De ultieme trip van de jaren 70′
Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72
‘The Great Shark Hunt’ – Gebundelde waanzin van Hunter S. Thompson
Instructies voor het lezen van Gonzo Journalistiek
‘The Curse of Lono’ – Het Hawaii avontuur van Hunter S Thompson
Image board on Pinterest

Jeppe Kleyngeld

James Bond: 10 Greatest Henchmen

In anticipation of SPECTRE, FilmDungeon.com editor Jeppe Kleyngeld lists his favourite things about the James Bond series in 12 unique features. Enjoy!

10. Zao
Film: DIE ANOTHER DAY
Played by: Rick Yune
Quote: ‘How’s that for a punch line?’
Zao 1
Why memorable: This Korean version of pinhead has business with 007 for messing up his face. In DIE ANOTHER DAY, he forms a very strong and fierce opponent for Bond. Finally gets impaled by a falling chandelier in the main villain’s ice palace.

9. Gobinda
Film: OCTOPUSSY
Played by: Kabir Bedi
Quote: ‘The Englishman has escaped!’ [he doesn’t talk very much]
Gobinda 1
Why memorable: A tall, strong and tough, but silent Sikh. He is the loyal servant and assassin of baddie Kamal Khan in OCTOPUSSY. He performs various duties at Khan’s Monsoon palace, as well as dealing with his master’s enemies, including Bond. Not an easy opponent -obviously- due to his sheer strength and brutal personality.

8. Tee Hee
Film: LIVE AND LET DIE
Played by: Julius W. Harris
Quote: ‘There are two ways to disable a crocodile you know. One way is to take a pencil, and jam it into the pressure hole behind his eye. Oh the other’s twice as simple. You just put your hand in his mouth… and pull his teeth out! Heh, heh’
Tee Hee 2
Why memorable: He is two metres tall, smiles a lot, has a hook for hand… Oh, and he is a big crocodile fan. Tee Hee is the perfect bad guy. His hook is unfortunately also his downfall. Bond disables it when Tee Hee attacks him in the train in the final scene and kicks him out of the window.

7. Mr. Kidd and Mr. Wint
Film: DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER
Played by: Putter Smith and Bruce Glover
Quote: Mr. Kidd: ‘If god had wanted man to fly…’ Mr. Wint: ‘…he would have given him wings, Mr. Kidd’
Mr. Kidd and Mr. Wint 1
Why memorable: This homosexual couple takes sardonic pleasure at murdering anybody their employer wants dead. Their methods vary from slipping a scorpion down their victim’s neck to blowing their helicopter out of the sky. They get awfully close to killing Bond a few times (especially when they put him in an incinerator), but the problem is they are too sadistic to just simply shoot James, giving him opportunities to escape.

6. Dario
Film: LICENCE TO KILL
Played by: Benicio Del Toro
Quote: ‘Don’t worry. We gave her a nice Honeymooooon…’
Dario 2
Why memorable: Benicio Del Toro, one of the greatest Latino actors around, plays Dario, a real sick puppy who works for drug dealer Sanchez. Dario was with the Contras revolutionaries before finding employment within Sanchez’s cocaine empire, a job that perfectly suits his sadistic needs. Del Toro was only 21 when he portrayed this stiletto wielding sicko. It is a great performance; every line that comes out of his mouth has real venom in it. Dario is a truly scary opponent for 007.

5. Xenia Onatopp
Film: GOLDENEYE
Played by: Famke Janssen
Quote: ‘Enjoy it while it lasts’
Xenia Onatopp 2
Why memorable: Dutch actress Famke Janssen portrays the woman with the meanest thighs in cinema history. She uses them to give opponents of her employer – the Janus Syndicate – the finest death imaginable. Nearly gets an orgasm from shooting a bunch of Russian computer programmers. This tough former fighter pilot is hard to defeat, but eventually gets strangled herself when Bond shoots down the helicopter she is attached to by wire.

4. Fatima Blush
Film: NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN
Played by: Barbara Carrera
Quote: [holding Bond at gun point] ‘You’re quite a man, Mr. James Bond, but I am a superior woman. Guess where you get the first one?’
Fatima Blush 1
Why memorable: Femme fatales are pretty rare in the Bond universe and Fatima Blush is a particularly delicious one, so she deserves a strong position here. Fatima dresses in black and red, is sexy and beautiful, keeps a snake for company and is violently and psychotically crazy. Vanity is her fatal flaw; she forces Bond to confess on paper that she gave him the finest sexual experience of his life, providing him with the golden opportunity to kill her.

3. Donald Grant
Film: FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE
Played by: Robert Shaw
Quote: ‘You may know the right wines, but you’re the one on your knees’
Donald Grant 1
Donald Grant 2
Why memorable: Donald Grant, convicted murderer. Escaped Dartmoor Prison in 1960. Recruited by SPECTRE in Tangiers in 1962. Grant is an excellent killer and a worthy opponent for Bond. A real übermensch; blonde, athletic, strong and emotionless. His fatal flaw is talking too much rather than just shooting his target.

2. Oddjob
Film: GOLDFINGER
Played by: Harold Sakata
Quote: ‘Urchhh’
Oddjob 1
Why memorable: ‘He is an admirable manservant but mute. And not a very good caddy.’ That is Auric Goldfinger’s description of his Korean henchman Oddjob. We would describe him as a near indestructible brute who can wield his razor-sharp hat like a lethal weapon. ‘Remarkable’, says Bond, when Oddjob decapitates a statue at the golf club. ‘But what does the club secretary have to say?’

1. Jaws
Film: THE SPY WHO LOVED ME and MOONRAKER
Played by: Richard Kiel
Quote: ‘Well, here’s to us’ [in MOONRAKER, his only line in the movies.]
Jaws 1
Why memorable: Indestructible, steel-mouthed brute who can bite his way through metal as easy as flesh. Works as a hitman for whoever wants to hire him. Basically survives anything, including a dive of a cliff, an explosion and a swim with a lethal shark (he bites the shark to death instead of the other way around). Jaws is the only henchman that appears in more than one movie. Halfway through his second appearance in MOONRAKER, he switches sides when he falls in love with a girl. Still the greatest henchman ever.

Read also:

10 Best Pre-Credit Sequences
James Bond: 10 Best Pre-Credit Scenes

10 Greatest Licensed Kills
James Bond: 10 Greatest Licensed Kills

Top 10 Gadgets
James Bond: Top 10 Gadgets