Snatch

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Writer/director Guy Ritchie’s follow-up to the 1999 heist comedy “Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels” is “Snatch,” a film that runs out of steam long before it ends yet still compels you to like it.

How can you not like a movie with character names like Franky Four Fingers, Bullet Tooth Tony, Boris the Blade (aka Boris the Bullet Dodger), Brick Top, Doug the Head and Cousin Avi? Or a movie that lies to you about who its main character is? (Benicio Del Toro, who plays Franky Four Fingers, is listed first in the credits and appears in the first scene … and then he’s removed from the playing field 30 minutes into the film.) Or a movie whose title is spoken only once, in a seemingly irrelevant place that becomes relevant an hour later?

There is much to like about Ritchie’s directorial style, which is frenetic and visually interesting. Cameras never just sit in the corner and watch if they can be mounted on tracks and give us up-the-nostril views instead. The opening surveillance-camera tracking shot is wonderful. The large cast of characters give off-kilter performances reminiscent of a Coen Brothers film.

Perhaps it’s all those great characters who are ultimately the problem: The film is altogether zanier than is prudent. You can only keep up tart-tongued gangster farces for so long. You can only have a cast of wackos whom audiences enjoy watching but feel no sympathy toward for so long. You can only laugh at Brad Pitt’s intentionally indecipherable Irish-Gypsy accent for so long.

The plot is curvy enough to fill a book, but the gist of it is that a huge diamond has been stolen and winds up in nearly everyone’s hands. For whatever reason (probably none; the film is unabashedly pointless), several ethnicities are involved, including Russians, Jews, blacks, Irish and Italians. A dog plays a part, too.

The narrator is Turkish (that’s his name, not his nationality). Turkish (Jason Statham) and his dim, innocent partner Tommy (Stephen Graham) run unlicensed boxing matches, often working with crime boss Brick Top (Alan Ford). Somehow Turkish and Tommy get involved with the jewel theft, and wind up owing Brick Top a big favor when their fixed fight goes awry insofar as their champion, Mickey O’Neil (Brad Pitt) fails to take a dive in the fourth round. The Benicio Del Toro character gets involved because he loves gambling, and someone who seeks his downfall (he’s the one with the diamond to start with) intentionally sends him to a bookie, where hitmen lie in wait. It gets more complicated from there, and I’m not entirely convinced the plot actually made sense the whole time.

Such a fast-paced, manic film is liable to burn itself out an hour or so, and this one does. The British accents are often very challenging, too, and not in a funny way like Brad Pitt’s is. Some great scenes — like Bullet Tooth Tony’s (Vinnie Jones) intimidation of the hitmen — are instant classics, elevating the film’s overall luster to something worth looking at, but short of brilliant.

B- (; R, abundant harsh profanity, some nudity, a lot of violence.)

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