Rated R - Running Time: 1:42 - Released 12/6/00

Snatch, the sophomore effort by writer/director Guy Ritchie (Lock, Stock, And Two Smoking Barrels), is certainly not a simple movie to describe. Like its predecessor, it tells a complex, densely populated story of crime in London, with a tendency toward graphic violence, a strange sense of humor, and a plot that revolves around its numerous characters like a wheel around its own various spokes. Ritchie's story is fascinating, in a soft-yellow-underbelly-of-society sort of way, and his presentation is frenetic and quirky. Brad Pitt, who in the trailer looks like the star (and who owns the arguably biggest "name" in the picture), is actually only one of many in an ensemble cast with no main character.

The story is told by bare-knuckle boxing promoter "Turkish" (Jason Statham), who explains to us how he and his friend Tommy (Stephen Graham) got involved in a deal with the notorious "Brick Top" (Alan Ford), a ruthless bookie and crime lord who has a habit of feeding the bodies of his enemies to his pigs. When the fighter Turkish was going to supply for Brick Top's fight gets K.O.'ed by "One Punch" Mickey ONeil (Pitt), Turkish plans to use Mickey for the fight instead, but Mickey's unpredictable nature quickly puts Turkish and Tommy in the position of being possible pig food if they cannot control him.

Meanwhile, in a tangentially related story, a Russian named Boris The Blade (Rade Serbedzija) hires a couple of pawn shop owners named Vinny and Sol (Robbie Gee, Lennie James) to hijack an 86-carat Belgian diamond stolen by Franky Four Fingers (Benicio Del Toro) for a dealer named Doug The Head (Mike Reid) and his American cousin Avi (Dennis Farina), but their plan goes sour and they soon find themselves pursued by Brick Top and Bullet Tooth Tony (Vinnie Jones), who is hired by Avi to find the diamond after Franky disappears. Confused? So was I.

Despite the complex nature of this story, it's really the characters more than the plot that make it interesting. Writer/director Ritchie established his Tarantino -esque style with Lock, Stock... and continues it here, creating a multi-faceted crime story deeply imbued with this multitude of tough-guy types (and, incidentally, using many of the same actors). Although it is often violent, there is an undercurrent of humor permeating every scene, with plenty of good lines in the dialogue, and the violence itself is hardly ever shown on screen. Pitt, Farina, Ford, and the rest of the practically all-male cast aquit themselves well, making an interesting collage of personalities. In the spokes-and-wheel metaphor, it could be said that the huge diamond is the hub of the wheel, since it seems to touch practically every character in some way at some time, and all their experiences radiate outwards from this central conceit.

Snatch, while somewhat hard to follow, represents a fascinating study in character interaction and complex plot development. With its foreign feel and low-budget style, it may not get much wide exposure in this country, but it's worth a look from a filmmaking standpoint, and it will afford Brad Pitt fans with an interesting departure from anything he has ever done before. ****

Copyright 2001 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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