Writer-director Guy Ritchie's "Snatch" is a film that wants you to love it because it's filled with characters named Franky Four Fingers, One Punch Mickey O'Neil, Brick Top, Bullet Tooth Tony, Boris The Blade, Turkish, and Doug The Head. Apart from not crediting Damon Runyan, the film also rushes everybody through the plot so fast that we don't even get time to enjoy the trip. It opens in Antwerp as a group of thieves led by Franky (Benicio Del Toro, playing with the worst Jewish accent since Ellen Burstyn) steals an 83-carat diamond from a dealer, and then moves back and forth from London to New York to a Gypsy encampment in the English countryside as complications upon complications ensue.
Turkish and his friend Tommy make the mistake of trying to buy a little travel trailer from the Gypsies, which leads to their meeting with bare-knuckle boxer One Punch Mickey (Brad Pitt, who is certainly discovering his inner self these days by playing against his iconic matinee-idol image and doing a great job of it. Pitt has taken over Del Toro's impenetrable accent from "Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels" and makes it work wonderfully well here). They lure One Punch into a bare-knuckle fight that Brick Top (Alan Ford) has fixed for him to lose, but -- do you really want to know? And what will happen to the 83-carat diamond and the three groups that are after it, including Franky's New York cousin Avi, the crooked dealer (Dennis Farina)?
Well, I'm not going to give it away, except to say that only Pitt and Ford emerge with any kind of glory. Pitt is witty, knowing, and resourceful as a comic actor, and lets us see just how his mind works against the various little plots the film is loaded with. Ford is the wittiest screen villain in ages, certainly the best since Anthony Hopkins in "Silence of the Lambs." The film is supposed to be fast, fun, and furiously slapstick, but Ritchie doesn't take enough time to set up his gags, and he cuts away from them before they pay off. He needs to go back and watch some Laurel and Hardy silent shorts to understand what makes slapstick work.
The film is a disappointment, but only because it had all the ingredients to be a classic, but was let down by an unreasoning fear of going too far. Ritchie needs to learn that when it comes to comedy, you can't go too far.