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Published: Friday, 1/19/2001

Snatch: These bad guys are mean, nasty - and hilarious


Exceedingly violent, overwhelmingly profane, and very funny, Snatch springs from the mind of writer-director Guy Ritchie, these days known more for being “Mr. Madonna.”

Snatch resembles Ritchie's first film, Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, in that it sticks with the gangster genre, but this time around he finds - or manufactures - hilarity in the increasingly bizarre events.

Much like Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, or Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia, Ritchie's film sports a large cast of diverse characters, whose spheres of influence would seem to be miles away from each other. Through the comedy of errors generated by the outlandish plot, the characters' lives intersect, often violently.

Snatch is filled with heavy British accents and so much slang that it is sometimes incomprehensible. When Dennis Farina's character, Avi, a diamond broker from New York,

However, there are just two key words that viewers need to know to get along in the film. One is an all-too-common profanity, which is used as noun, verb, adjective, and adverb many times in the same sentence. If this word offends, stay away from this movie. The other word is Pikey, which is a British slang term for Gypsy. Brad Pitt plays a Pikey named Mickey O'Neil, but it's hard to recognize him under the layers of stubble, grime, and a strange-looking hat.

Pitt is generally given star status, but the big star in Snatch is the story and Ritchie's roller-coaster pace. The action starts in Antwerp, where four Hasidic Jewish diamond merchants turn out to be thieves led by Franky Four Fingers (Benicio Del Toro), who swipe a flawless 82-carat gem for Avi. Discarding their disguises, the four head for London, where Franky, an obsessive gambler, finds out about an illegal boxing match. What he doesn't know is that the match has been set up by Boris the Blade (Rade Sherbedgia), who hires pawnshop owners Vinny (Robbie Gee) and Sol (Lennie James) to “obtain” the diamond that Franky is guarding.

If there are any innocents in Snatch, they are Turkish (Jason Statham) and Tommy (Stephen Graham), unlicensed boxing promoters who are as honest as possible in their illegal world. But even they find themselves dripping with slime from the movie's many other unsavory characters.

A movie like Snatch demands a willingness to enter the world created by the filmmaker and stick with it to the end. There is no time for thought or subtlety and barely time to sort out the characters.

The payoff is that Ritchie's movie is a bawdy roller-coaster ride, an extended joke. Viewers may hate themselves for laughing, but laugh they will, even as they are desperately hoping that such a world does not truly exist.

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