You guys remember Snatch? That Guy Ritchie crime movie from 2000 with a poster reminiscent of Entourage and a cast that seemed to feature not one female? About the only thing I remembered about it was Brad Pitt as the Irish gypsy bare-knuckle boxing champion (and what I considered a pretty unconscionable ratio of screen time with shirt on vs. shirt off — which is to say, Brad Pitt's washboard abs and leopard-print underpants struck me more as a marketing tool than anything else). But a second viewing 13 years later rewards, if for no other reason than to see Ritchie's work in the unburnished early days. This one hopscotches among fighting promoters, London criminal lowlifes and jewelry dealers as they vie for a stolen diamond of almost unearthly size and purity. It's obvious that Ritchie really knows how to get a film underway. Say what you will about his frenzied, all-hands-on-deck scripts and often highly stylized dialogue; the pace of the film instantly gives it a leg up among Netflix instant options. Why? In my experience, the threshold for minimalism and any sort of deliberately slow camera work dips considerably when I'm watching on a laptop in my bed. That's not to say that before sleep I need to decompress with mindless explosions and fast-talking Brits, but it certainly did the trick last week. Snatch is a lullaby on drugs.
If you're looking for low-budget nightmares, horror guru Sam Raimi doesn't waste time either. His 1981 cult classic Evil Dead is available instantly and may serve as a campy preamble to (what's alleged to be) the repulsively gory remake, out now in theaters. Believe it or not, the gore is likely a tad less excessive in the '80s version, if more of the arts-and-crafts variety. There's a singularity of intent here, evidenced by the utter lack of exposition and later the consummate disintegration of faces and body parts. It's a festival of blood effects and not much else when five unsuspecting teens arrive at a cabin in the woods and summon ghastly demons from the deep. One by one, they all turn into zombies and start flinging innards of spectacular culinary diversity hither and yon.
The 2012 runaway box-office megahit Hunger Games, based on the bestselling book by Suzanne Collins, has arrived on instant and should be one of the more popular options for some time. Unlike Evil Dead, The Hunger Games — in part to maintain its PG-13 rating — resisted some of the explicit physical violence which made the book so shocking and pleasurable. Academy Award-winner Jennifer Lawrence plays the all-business Katniss Everdeen, forced to compete in a sick annual game where two children from each district in a dystopic future America fight to the death. Among other things, excellent supporting performances from Stanley Tucci and Woody Harrelson. You probably didn't miss this one in theaters but despite its flaws, it's weirdly tempting to watch again.
If you've seen Battle Royale, the graphic 2000 Japanese film with similar child violence themes, the Hunger Games seems like little more than a low-calorie session of capture the flag. This one packs a gruesome punch. The rules of the last-one-standing game are more interesting — each child gets a single surprise weapon before they're unleashed on an island — and the fact of the participants' youth is more compellingly dramatized vis-a-vis crushes and cliques and angsty emotional roller-coastering. And in case it's not obvious enough, they're all in school uniforms. As such, the film functions more as grisly metaphor than civic cautionary tale.
But hey listen, if violence isn't your thing, there's always Parks and Recreation.