Snatch It's a good thing Joe Lieberman isn't British. If the senator, who has set out to clean up the violence in American films, were from the Isles, then the crime comedy "Snatch" would be the first target for demolition.
Written and directed by Guy Ritchie (better known as the new Mr. Madonna), "Snatch" follows the mishaps of bumbling lowlifes in London's somewhat seedy underbelly. It's frequently hilarious, often in a totally desensitized sort of way -- raucous laughter at otherwise brutal shootings or car accidents.
It's all in good fun, though. As a diamond "the size of a fist" makes its way from jewel thief to scheming dealer to strong-armed thugs, tongues are firmly in cheek.
Everyone's a criminal here, and the better for it: there are Russians, Americans, gypsies, Hasidic Jews, dogs, pig farmers and boxing promoters.
The characters are as colorful as their postmodern gangster nicknames: Bullet Tooth Tony, Boris the Blade, Brick Top, Franky Four Fingers -- the list goes on. Largely unknowns, the members of the excellent ensemble cast inhabit their roles without the hint of a performance.
Brad Pitt fits in perfectly as Mickey, the indecipherable gypsy and bare-knuckle boxer who only wants a caravan for his beloved "marn."
Pitt's wonderfully comedic performance is joined by familiar face Dennis Farina as Avi, an American diamond dealer who loathes the English events around him. English football player and Ritchie-returnee Vinnie Jones is again great as Tony, the gold-toothed thug who's a lot smarter than he looks.
Ritchie is a member of a new class of filmmakers, along with Darren Aronofsky and Paul Thomas Anderson, who are equal parts music video and Martin Scorsese.
As such, their direction is as much a character as anyone else. In "Snatch," Ritchie turns up the manic knob on his screenplay with acceleration and deceleration of time, quick cuts and off-kilter angles and closeups. It's done so much these days that one forgets how impressive it is when done well, as in Ritchie's case.
Quickly paced, off-handedly violent and full of humorously drawn characters, "Snatch" draws almost too many comparisons to Ritchie's first film, "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" -- which shares the very same traits.
But "Snatch" seems less like a retread and more like a consolidation of Ritchie's talents as a writer-director, if only of comedic capers.
While there is more violence, and more gruesome violence at that, there are also better characters and gags.It's a generally brighter affair that should please anyone who can find the sly humor in gunshots and heists gone horribly awry.
The Arts & Entertainment Editor
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