director: guy ritchie
brad pitt, benicio del toro, dennis farina

. It’s a shame to think that his marriage to Madonna will probably overshadow coverage of Guy Ritchie’s latest film, Snatch. Even more awful to contemplate is the likelihood that he’ll be pressed into service to revive his wife’s moribund acting career.

Ritchie (the director of indie hit Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) makes boy films -- frantic, brutal tales of “’ard men” and the preening lads who yearn to be “’ard”. It has to be noted that there isn’t a single female character of any depth in the whole of his new film.

Snatch is set in the particularly English milieu of illegal boxing, jewel theft, Jamaican “Yardies”, resourceful hit men, ex-KGB mobsters and gypsy grifters. It’s a peculiarly police-free world where a spectacular chain of events, beginning with a botched double-cross after a jewel heist, draws an outlandish cast of thugs together and gradually thins them out with an impressive body count.

While the cast includes Brad Pitt, Dennis Farina and Benicio Del Toro, the American actors aren’t any more featured than the English players, all of whom are little more than foul-mouthed, threatening, or beaten-down cogs in Ritchie’s pinball-like plot. The cartoon-like violence and mayhem is giddily underscored by the director’s lunging camera work and slashing editing. It’s all spectacularly, darkly funny -- especially if your sense of humour is tickled by, say, a notoriously “unkillable” thug being hit by a car and, with increasing exasperation, pumped full of bullets.