Snatch reminds me of arrogant basketball superstar Dennis Rodman. It’s all attitude, flashy tattoos, muscling about, amoral, foul-mouthed, and it has a rather disturbing connection to Madonna.

Director Guy Ritchie, Madonna’s new husband, delivered us the best of the Pulp Fiction wanna-be’s, a little crime caper called Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels just a couple of years ago. That stylish, hyperviolent film was like a big cartoon. In it, small, dumb, young men made a bad gamble and got stuck in power plays between big, dumb, malevolent villains. We cared about these poor souls because they were just naive and stupid, and really needed a chance to learn their lesson and go on with their lives, but the major nasties chasing them were like wild dogs. Lots of blood was shed, and somehow the heroes slipped through it all right, in a catastrophic collision of accidents, coincidences, and close-calls that kept us gasping, wincing, and laughing. While the movie was too indulgently violent for me to give it much of a recommendation, I appreciated how its storytelling worked like a well-wound watch, and that it had a conscience (however feeble.)

Snatch is like a remake of Lock, Stock with the moral backbone ripped out of it and the style turned up several notches.

To paraphrase its impossibly tangled multiple plotlines: two brothers get involved in illegal unlicensed boxing where the fights are rigged. When they find out that their fighter is unable to fight, they know that their boss, a tough-talking old godfather of the underworld, is going to have their heads. More accurately, he might feed them to his wild dogs.

Just in time they discover another fighter, a gypsy boy (Brad Pitt) whose accent is so garbled no one can understand him. Meanwhile, a jewel heist has taken place and the chief thief (Benicio Del Toro) decides to go gambling, only to lose track of the enormous diamond he stole. The men who hired him to steal the whopping diamond are displeased, and the obnoxious American (Dennis Farina) who wants the lost rock decides to come to London and get things sorted out. Sure enough, everybody gets involved in one giant confusing dance of violence, misunderstandings, and revenge vendettas.

This time, Ritchie can’t strike a good balance between madcap comedy and hard-hitting suspense. There are still cartoon qualities to it. Most characters speak in quick memorable quips and go by a nickname. They’re all attitude, bravado, and varying levels of trigger-happy. Watching them is like watching a scavenger hunt in which criminals are given free-reign of the town and a license to kill.

Unfortunately, this time there’s no one to root for. There’s nobody learning anything, or trying to do the right thing. They all qualify as arrogant selfish men, arrogant violent men, stupid arrogant men, violent stupid men, or selfish violent arrogant stupid men, etc…. The only prominent woman character is the protective mother of the gypsy boxer, and we are led to care for her… which seems almost unfair. Everything around her is so outrageous that, when misfortune comes her way, we can’t take it very seriously, even though the movie suddenly turns serious and asks us to become emotionally involved.

I walked away from Snatch feeling battered by violence and disappointed in its lack of redeeming qualities. I enjoyed the hilarious but brief appearances of Brad Pitt and Benicio Del Toro. And nobody makes tough talk sound better than Dennis Farina, who set the standard in Midnight Run long ago. But I hoped to see Ritchie become a more skilled director, and hoped he would find something more interesting and profound to say. Instead, he has created something rather like the favorite pastime of this movie’s most malevolent villain… throwing wild dogs into a pit and watching them fight until there’s only one left standing.