Two years ago, British filmmaker Guy Ritchie's Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels served notice that a smart, stylish, well-paced crime movie can generally draw a crowd. Snatch, Ritchie's second feature, taps into a similar vein of robbery, violence and dark comedy, even if it doesn't entertain as precisely as the original.

Snatch--the title presumably refers to a diamond heist that should have come off as planned--revolves around a diamond courier called Franky Four Fingers (Benicio Del Toro) who comes to London, hoping to deliver a large diamond to make some extra money from his boss Avi (Dennis Farina), and eager to pick up some cash from an illegal boxing match.

But the bout seems a bit shaky, although hardly as shaky as Mickey O'Neil (Brad Pitt), a tattooed palooka--shades of Fight Club--who ought to be stretched out on the canvas by the fourth round, provided he remembers where his legs are. And that's just the beginning. Before Snatch is over, viewers may be hard-pressed to recall the movie's subtler nuances or, for that matter, the links among crooks, would-be crooks and double-crossing crooks.

If Lock,Stock established Ritchie as a likeable rogue--after all, he did move in with Madonna offscreen--it also certified him as a smart guy who could spin a detailed narrative, perhaps not as derivatively as Quentin Tarantino, but with a similar expertise. Like Tarantino, Ritchie grasps the wisdom of casting stars in cameos. Watching Snatch, one is constantly aware that if the likes of Del Toro and Pitt haven't turned up on the big screen yet, just be patient. Meanwhile, isn't that Madonna singing on the film's car radio? You bet.

One also can't help comparing this new film to Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, which set the tone forRitchie movies. Snatch certainly has its moments--two of its settings are a pig farm and a gypsy camp--but Lock, Stock offered a memorable introduction to Ritchie's lowlife world and its denizens, who recall Damon Runyon characters transported to the mean streets and dead ends of present-day London. Ritchie's background in commercials and music-videos and his recurring freeze-frames give Snatch its nearly breathless pace, courtesy of cinematographer Tim Maurice-Jones, who pulls out all the stops.

When you come right down to it, Snatch is pretty much a boys' movie, but a twisted and ironic boys' movie, the likes of which hasn't been seen since Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

--Ed Kelleher