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A screenshot of the "Snatch" Web site -- a site that, incidentally, did not require an Adultcheck password to enter.

2000, SKA Films
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It's a good time to be Guy Ritchie. 1998's "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" not only brought the young British director into the Hollywood mainstream, but the film's success so far has also prevented him from being pigeonholed in the dubious, growing category of "foreign dudes who got Madonna pregnant." Considering the fact that we've all long since forgotten the last guy, it's not as though Ritchie could seriously have expected to cash in on the novelty of that for very long.

With the release of "Snatch," (IMDb listing) Ritchie stands poised at a major potential turning point in his career. Will "Snatch" earn him the adoration of the industry? Or will he learn the business' most difficult lesson: Hollywood's love for its hot young stars is hardly unconditional and capricious at best. Though it's hard to determine which has the more impressive track record for building up then dashing a man's fantasies, Hollywood or Madonna, it goes without saying that the industry is a a rather unforgiving mistress. With the glaring exceptions of numerous Pauly Shore and Keanu Reeves films, Hollywood is not exactly a land of second chances. "Snatch" will go a long way in determining if Ritchie is a one-hit wonder or if he'll be around for a while.

Let's start with the obvious attention grabbing title. No, the film isn't about THAT. "Snatch" refers innocuously enough to a jewel heist, though the first time I saw the title displayed at the cinema in big red letters followed by the number "18," you could have fooled me. I simply assumed it was further evidence of the fact that the British seem to be obsessed with selling sex wherever possible.

Elementally, the film is unintelligible—what do you get when you throw together a Russian gangster, the Jewish mob, a cold blooded, sinister thug/pig farmer who sets up rigged boxing matches, a compulsive gambler with four fingers, three idiotic crooks for hire, a handful of goons, Brad Pitt as an incoherent, mumbling, bearded and heavily tattooed Irish gypsy, a parkie dog, an 84 carat diamond, and two hapless boxing promoters caught in the middle of it all? You get frenetic, chaotic, and violent action, tightly filmed and with sharp, fast paced transitions.

The film has two connected underlying plotlines that are fairly simple—two boxing promoters are trying not to get themselves murdered over a fixed fight. But what's illegal gambling without theft? That's where the diamond comes in. For the rest of the characters, everyone either wants the diamond or wants to get away from everyone willing to kill for it. The two interconnected storylines move together with surprising fluidity. The sheer number of characters and their tangential subplots are where things get complicated. The fact that any sense can be made of the film is in itself impressive.

The film has some definite failings—contrived situations and cheesy dialogue delivered by hackneyed characters create some stilted scenes and rather silly and absurd moments. The witty quips are there, but they are delivered poorly and unimpressively. The complicated subplots, while advanced with suprising clarity, are often tied together with the flimsiest of coincidences and connections that are scarcely believable. Despite these flaws, the film manages to work nonetheless. It doesn't matter that the three crooks are stupid in addition to being plain bad, or that Dennis Farina ("Reindeer Games," "Out of Sight") makes one horribly annoying Jewish mobster. Flashy visual elements, above average cinematography, a very prominent soundtrack and scads of violence make this an entertaining film. (If Guy Ritchie ever denies that Tarentino is his idol, he's a flat out liar.)

This film is clearly meant to be Guy Ritchie's "Pulp Fiction." It doesn't have the same star glutted cast or sharp dialogue, (Ritchie did refrain from writing himself a bit part in order to display a total lack of acting skill in an agonizing performance, and for that, I thank him), but I'm willing to predict commercial success for Ritchie with "Snatch." It's got something for everyone (as much as an R rated film can have something for everyone), including the hordes of Brad Pitt lovers who will appreciate the 20 minutes he's shirtless. Pitt actually turns in a very solid performance as the damn parkie-Irish-gypsy-boxer. Of course for everyone not interested in seeing a half naked Brad Pitt, there's plenty of violence, a pulsing soundtrack, and flashy visuals, right up to the savage and blood-soaked glee of the film's climax. Thankfully, much of the gore is implied rather than prominently displayed, though it has the desired effect.

The film is gimmicky, cliched, and some will say a bad knock off of "Pulp Fiction," but it's geared for commercial success and it's entertaining. I'm betting that this flick will 'snatch' recognition from the jaws of anonymity for Guy Ritchie. Congratulations, Mr. Ritchie, you've just bought yourself another 15 minutes of fame.

Filmfodder Grade: B

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