Revolver (2005) dir. Guy Ritchie
Starring: Jason Statham, Ray Liotta, Vincent Pastore, Andre Benjamin
What was he thinking? It isn’t news to most people that “Revolver” is a complete mess. After the disastrous “Swept Away”, Guy Ritchie returned to the genre that gave him such success. But Ritchie reaches way too far in his attempt at a philosophical Freudian gangster film and delivers a dog breakfast that just gets sloppier and sloppier as it goes along.
The film has a promising beginning, the first 30mins sets up the character of Jake (Jason Statham) – a gangster/thug just released from seven-year stint in prison with revenge is on his mind. The man who did him wrong is a Casino mob boss Macha (Ray Liotta). Fearing retribution Macha tries to take him down, but he’s saved by a pair mythical con-men Avi and Zach (Andre Benjamin and Vincent Pastore). Avi and Zach propose a partnership – in exchange for all his money ($500,000), Jake will be protected from Macha and be given the chance to exact revenge against him. Jake fears a con, but his conscience tells him to go along with it.
This is where it gets tricky, Zach, Avi and Jake embark on a series of elaborate heists that trick Macha into thinking he’s at war with a rival Asian drug lord. Reference is made to a Kaiser Soze-type omniscient mob boss Mr. Gold whom everyone fears. This fear drives Macha to dig himself out of his the hole that Jake and the boys have caused. In the last third, Jake’s inner conscience starts to separate itself from Jake’s real conscience and so the battle becomes Jake vs. Jake.
Ritchie has attempted something profound. The movie starts out with a series of philosophical quotes like “The greatest enemy will hide in the last place you would ever look.” There’s a metaphor of a chess game with the con game going on, but none of it ever fits together. It’s a grab-bag of intellectualisms. In fact, Ritchie thinks so highly of his message that the final credits feature interviews from real life psychologists (like Deepak Chopra) discussing the ego, and the ID and other intellectual mumbo jumbo.
Ritchie never really sets up his world either. It feels like reality in the beginning but the world morphs into a “Sin City-type” environment, one without cops and traditional rules of time, location, logic and physics. There’s nothing wrong with a world like this, but by the time Ritchie fully commits to it, I was out of the film.
Ritchie’s style is front and centre of course. No dialogue scene is cut straight. They’re either intercut with some sort of flashforward, flashback, alternate reality, or even dialogue from other characters. There only mildly interesting sequence is a great gunbattle in the Jake’s brother’s apartment. Thrown in to ensure sufficient overkill is an animated sequence and scene forwards and in reverse.
Ritchie’s downfall is his self-conscious seriousness. There isn’t an ounce of humour, which is the reason why Ritchie’s first two films were so successful. Maybe the problem was having Luc Besson in his ear all the time saying “C’est bon”.