This review has been ‘repurposed’ from my other site, theOneliner.com
Wow. It seems that everyone hates Guy Ritchie, presumably just to counterbalance the ‘Cool Britannia’ period where everyone loved Guy Ritchie. One marriage to a fading pop icon and one vanity project later and the hatchets have been buried, mainly in the poor boy’s back. Revolver, his latest has taken something of a mauling but every other review seems to confuse their hatred of the creator as justification enough to slate the film. This is lazy, but also restrictive as there’s quite a lot in Revolver that you could work up a head of hatred about.
On the face of it, Revolver is a return to more familiar Lock Stock / Snatch territory. Jason Statham shows up as cockney criminal Jack Green, just out from a stretch at Her Majesties Pleasure. His thoughts on getting out turn to crim casino boss Mr. Macha (Ray Liotta), the man responsible for his seven year vacation and the death of his sister-in-law. Being something of a nasty piece of work, Macha doesn’t take the substantial, immediate and humiliating fiscal loss that Green perpetrates on him very well. In fact, he orders him killed.
At this time, Green falls in with a strange crowd of fixers, Avi (Andre ‘Outkast’ 3000) and Zach (Vincent Pastore), who offer to extricate him from his precarious situation at the cost of absolutely everything Jake has. Not the most appealing offer that Green’s ever heard, but given that Macha’s not adverse to throwing goons at him including the highly respected, socially ill at ease hitman Sorter (Mark Strong) it’s an offer Green is compelled to take up.
Avi and Zach’s survival scheme goes from being an unconventional set up of a small gang war between Macha and Triad (possibly) boss Lord John to something of an existential identity crisis, by way of every point in between or possibly none of them. Erugh. Narratively, things get messy in this film with a vengeance about halfway through leading up to an unceremonious, abrupt ending by which point it’s still not entirely clear what happened on first viewing.
We assume that Ritchie saw Fight Club and The Usual Suspects and thought it’d be a good source of inspiration, and there’s not a thing wrong with that. The only upsetting thing is that he’s wound up producing something that’s closer to Basic than the aforementioned examples, and that is A Bad Thing. There’s too many dead ends, odd behaviour, unexplained angles and weird bits for anyone to truly get an immediate handle on what’s going on, further hindered by the utter red herrings that Ritchie gleefully admits he’s added. No doubt things become clearer on second or third viewing but there’s a slight problem with this, one which will perhaps forever render this film oblique to me.
It’s not a lot of fun. We could still and natter back and forward about the merits of the convoluted plot for some considerable time, but the main point has to be that for the most part, Revolver fails to engage. Statham’s omnipresent internal monologue voiceover quickly starts to seem like lazy storytelling, as though proper exposition has to be eschewed to cram another slice of confusion into the mix. While Statham continues to act more watchably in Ritchie’s outings than anything else he does, he’s not got a lot to play with or play off. Vincent Pastore mostly fades into the background, while Andre Benjamin seems an uncomfortable fit for his character.
Ray Liotta’s cast in the sort of role he can do in his sleep, and it seems that’s exactly what he does. It’s a shockingly bland performance which on the basis of Goodfellas and Narc we can reasonably lay down at the script and the direction. I mean, the man can be terrifying in a mere advert for Heineken, for the love of God. The only thing scary about him here is penchant for parading around in snug-fitting briefs, rather undermining his authority. Mark Strong provides a welcome high point with an adept turn, including hands down the best scene of the movie where he winds up terminating a silly number of goons. The fact that his character is the only one with straightforward, understandable motives might explain why a relatively minor character become the most memorable thing in it.
There’s precious few to connect the Ritchie that produced Lock Stock to the one behind the camera here. Most of it’s fairly dull, and while there’s the odd moment of style that brought Ritchie to the dance (the aforementioned Sorter scene) the perfunctory nature of the bulk of the storytelling renders it too staid to drive the film along with flat performance tyres. There’s the odd remarkable scene for sure, but mostly in pointless places that are undone, or senseless, or red herrings. Witness the scene where Green is hit by a car while crossing a road, sailing headfirst through the windscreen in glorious slo-mo before time rewinds itself, depositing him unharmed by the pavement for no readily discernable reason. Perhaps Ritchie just likes playing Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. It’s scenes like this, and there are quite a few of them, that’s lead to accusations of pretentiousness and despite my inherent optimism, I struggle find any concrete evidence to refute them.
I suppose Ritchie can’t win at the minute. If he’d went back and did another straight Lock Stock-esque outing (which no doubt would have been Layer Cake) he’d be taking pelters from people saying there’s nothing new and that he’s a one trick pony. If he writes something that’s a little more open to interpretation he’s going to get people saying, well, pretty much what I’ve been saying over the course of this missive. Nothing against offbeat storytelling round this part of the internet, but it need some clear driving force behind it. Ritchie goes out of his way to obfusticate things so much that you end up with the impression that even he doesn’t know quite what he’s trying to say or to achieve. There’s moments in Revolver that remind you of what a vital and fun filmmaker Ritchie can be, but for the most part you’ll be left wishing that he’d stopped adding convolutions onto his script and went a little more minimalistic. This may well be a turning point in Ritchie’s career, and it’ll be interesting to see where he goes from here. On the evidence of this, he’s probably going to ‘do a Soderbergh’ and vanish so far up his own arse as to baffle proctologists, but we line in hope.