Review: Revolver

Revolver CaptionThe question many people (well at least a few dozen or so) are probably asking themselves of Revolver is whether or not Guy Ritchie is back in cheeky-gangster form after the Swept Away debacle. After all, Revolver has been sitting on the shelf after its Toronto International Film Festival debut way back in September 2005. The answer is yes, there are gangsters and there is cheek (much of it belonging to Ray Liotta, more on that later) but here Ritchie is attempting no less than a full-on deconstruction of his first two films both structurally and thematically. Whether or not anyone will actually enjoy the film is another question entirely. It took some pretty big brass balls to self-finance something this ambitious at this point in his career. The movie does however, collapse under its own weight somewhere around the halfway point. Deconstruction is perhaps too big a goal for films as shallow as Ritchie’s. The man is most known as the best of the Quentin Tarantino rip-offs with an even bigger emphasis on style-over-substance.

Fresh off the Transporter 2 (at the time), Jason Statham is a bit more nuanced as Jake Green than Frank the Driver. He has switched to a pinstriped suit (which he is always wearing) and has a lot of hair on his head and a beard. He is the typical calm and collected type, a Statham specialty perfected in both Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. But in Revolver, Jake has more of an edge. He constantly doubts everything around him and is very much on edge internally and claustrophobic to boot. Jake was a low level thug who went to prison after his boss betrayed him. After a 7 year stint where he studied gaming theory and the art of the con from two anonymous inmates, he aspires to new heights in London’s gambling underworld. He is immediately successful upon his release from prison, amassing massive amounts of cash, and hurting his ex-employer by taking much of his money in a series of showy and audacious bets. It all goes to hell however, when he is blackmailed by two mysterious loan-sharks and forced (for incredibly convoluted reasons) to work for them. In the process, this starts a massive war between the British and the Chinese gangs in the city. Frank goes from issuing gaming lectures right out of John Dahl’s Rounders to questioning whether or not he is in fact the ‘sucker.’ This is one of the best strengths of the film.

Ray Liotta plays a reckless and unstable crime boss. If flying into red-faced rage while spitting on your underlings is the path to power, it is quite obvious how Liotta rose to where he is. But even Liotta is a small fish in the sea next to the mysterious Gold, a Kaiser Soze type who has an Edna Mode woman handle his business arrangements with the mid-level crime bosses. You know right off, that a live wire such as Liotta doesn’t stand a chance in the con-game, but Liotta chews up the role (and the scenery) with gusto and is a pleasure to watch, even if he often is wearing a skin-tight leopard skin speedo which wouldn’t look out of place on Ray Winstone in Sexy Beast.

Another stand out in the film is a sniper (Mark Strong looking like a cross between Stanley Tucci and Tony Shaloub) who experiences a change of heart in one crucial scene. What follows is Revolver‘s best sequence, not surprisingly, a highly stylized shoot out.

Revolver is a chess game within a chess game, within a chess game. At some point you may ask yourself whether or not it is actually worth trying to keep up with the film and just enjoy one implausible scene after another. Take for example the 3 day time-line the film sets out with. The wardrobe and exotic-location changes on the loan sharks alone would take a pretty serious level of co-ordination. Vincent Pastore and Andre 3000, both very comfortable with this material, are camping it up as much or more than anyone else here.

Part of the fun is to see just how far Ritchie is going to go after he has jumped the (loan) shark. One interesting thing to note is that Ritchie has also turned down the humour here, make no mistake there are laughs in the film, but things are not played as broadly as his previous gangster slapsticks.

Revolver shamelessly pilfers from David Mamet’s many con-game films, The Usual Suspects, Fight Club and P.T. Anderson’s Hard Eight. I kept being reminded of Donald Kaufman’s fake screenplay (“The 3”) in Adaptation for some reason. The operatic and ambiguous finale is bound to test the patience of any audience who have been trying to add the plot up to any sort of sum. Compared to something like Smokin’ Aces (itself some sort of DNA fusion between Tony Scott‘s Domino and Guy Ritchie‘s own Lock, Stock…) Revolver is watchable as a convoluted campy confection. It would make a wacko Liotta vs. Statham double bill with Uwe Boll‘s equally deluded and corny In the Name of The King. With this film as smugly superior as it is (or thinks it is) one wonders whether or not Ritchie was thinking to himself “Hail to the King, baby!” during the whole process of making this one.

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RustyJames
Guest

argh, guy ritchie.

first of all it doesn't take big brass balls to self finance a movie when you're madonna's wife. This is the type of decadence rich people indulge in give their lives meaning.

secondly, he is not even the best of the tarantino imitators. What about Sonnenfield with Get Shorty. Hell, you just did a write up on Out of Sight which was Soderberg's blatant homage to tarantino. I know that both those guys were established prior to Tarantino so it probably doesn't count. But we must be able to think of someone; just to keep the words guy ritchie and "best" from appearing next to each other.

Is it true this ends with Deepak Chopra coming out and explaining the greater meaning of it all? If so, is he wearing a tuxedo Lars Von Trier style?

Mathew Vaughn is the best Tarantino imitator. Robert Rodruigez? Innarito? There's lots to choose from.

Andrew James
Guest

Innaritu a Tarantino imitator? I don't see it.

Anyway, why is this movie so hard to find? It's been out since 05 hasn't it? Why is not in the big markets yet? And I liked both Lock Stock and Snatch quite a bit.

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RustyJames
Guest

Amoros Peros was widely compared to Pulp Fiction after it's release. Segmented but connected stories. Fixation on crime. Those two traits inparticular characterized the Tarantino subgenre that ran amok in the 90's.

Also they both love non chronological story telling.

I love Innaritu and all the directors I named are better than mere imitators but I don't think it can be denied that they were all influenced by the QT.

Marina Antunes
Admin

Well, I'm starting to get the feeling that my disregard for Ritchie isn't misplaced. However, I do love Statham…

roman
Guest

Wasn't this released in the U.K. over a year ago? And didn't it tank miserably?

Maybe it's me but I thought I remembered both Sight And Sound and Empire covering how bad it was.

andrew
Guest

Boondock Saints, Suicide Kings. there's what your QT ripoffs look like. and i think that matthew vaughn has a lot to prove before he can even be called a good ripoff artist. Layer Cake was a decent directorial debut, but i would never need to see it again.

i like ritchie, but only to a point. Lock Stock stands as my favorite of his, Snatch was a step down the personality ladder with a bigger budget, and i haven't seen Swept Away (to my benefit, so i hear). i want to like Revolver in the same way that i wanted to like Smokin' Aces, but ever since the latter overwhelmingly disappointed me, i'm tentative on my hope that ritchie is able to redeem himself again.

RustyJames
Guest

I seem to remember an Interview with Innaritu where he specifically mentions Tarantino as a major influence. Since Amoros Peros he's gone on in other directions, but so has Ritchie.

Out Of Sight was clearly an homage to Tarantino. Two Tarantino characters made an appearance. Soderberg was setting off on his crime duology and he wanted to pay tribute to Tarantino.

All of these directors made movies with non chronological time lines. And back then you couldn't do that without being compared to Tarantino.

I agree that to dismiss any of these guys as "rip-offs" would be naive, and I was mostly just making an off hand comment about Ritchie being the 'best' at something. But the fact is that all these guys have done their time on Tarantino row.

By the way Sonnenfeld adapted Leneord before Tarantino. So that's not where I was going with that.

andrew
Guest

i did see Intermission a while back. i remember being entertained by it, but again, not in a way that would urge me to revisit it. i seem to remember most of the characters getting on my nerves by the time it ended. it wasn't very engaging.

WORD on Things To Do In Denver When You're Dead. one of the more fascinating post-Pulp train wrecks. and kurt, don't waste your time on Boondock Saints unless you really want to be able to get an educated word in on the hullabaloo of that overrated, incoherent flick. it's not complete garbage, but i was amazed how overextended the buzz was on that guy.

RustyJames
Guest

actually you should watch Boondock Saints before Overnight. It makes for a more satisfying experience.

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