Revolver is clearly the work of a fevered ego, a plotless garbled mess from mockney one-hit wonder Guy Ritchie. This is a challenging and somewhat gruelling film to watch, luring you along with the promise of a revelatory pay-off which never arrives. Revolver is predictably billed as another gangster flick in the mould of Lock, Stock but it is a completely different prospect with sneering ambitions and pretensions of intellectual grandeur.
At first glance this is the tale of a dodgy gambler/conman named Jake Green. He has just been released from prison after a seven year stretch in solitary confinement following an incident which left his brother´s wife dead. He wants some payback on the man responsible, a larger than life, leopard skin pant wearing megalomaniac casino owner called Macha. Jake pays him a visit and humiliates him, making a little cash in the process, Macha is displeased and a ridiculous and violent series of events unfolds.
Jake is aided mysteriously by two loan sharks, Avi and Zach. His "game" with Macha escalates and we go on a whirlwind tour of previous successful films like Pulp Fiction, Oceans Eleven, Goodfellas, Kill Bill and even Fight Club. The slick gangster styling and rampant violence acts as a front for a pretentious idea about man´s internal battle but the ham-fisted religious symbolism and constant psycho analytical narrative mumbling don´t add up to much more than a crapulent ego trip.
Ritchie did a good job on Lock, Stock and he can produce some beautifully shot scenes but what Revolver lacks, apart from a coherent storyline, is charm and humour. While some of the direction is good there are too many stolen scenes, too many slow motion moments with booming classical accompaniment; this is truly style over substance. The editing is irritating in the extreme, everything has to be repeated until it is etched into your memory, there are a lot of quick cuts, jumping around in time and overlaying unrelated sequences out of sync. I lost count of how many times the quote "The only way to become stronger is to play a stronger opponent" was used both as text and as dialogue. At least it provided some entertainment as we sat awestruck at his barefaced cheek in shoehorning it in every five minutes.
For a film like this, which is seeking to hint at deeper meaning you really need a lead who can convey emotion, who can help the audience understand what is happening and so the last person you should cast as Jake is Jason Statham. His deadpan wooden delivery and constant intense staring convey only boredom. Vincent Pastore plays Zach, you may not recognise the name but I guarantee you´ve seen this guy play some kind of mafia hood before and he´s good at it. Andre Benjamin is surprisingly good as Avi, his caricatured sense of style fits the film perfectly as each character is like a neat cardboard cut-out. Ray Liotta plays Macha effortlessly and provides most of the humour with an insanely repulsive and somewhat humiliating portrayal of the grotesque baddie.
All of the characters talk in riddle fashion, delivering dialogue as though reciting some awful poetry. Revolver contains an enormous number of scenes and they are spliced together in a bizarre fashion and yet the pace is achingly slow and the action interminably dull. The repetition is extremely tiring and reeks of a generally lazy approach.
Revolver sprawls on for 115 minutes before a gimmicky cut to black and houselights on with no end credits. Needless to say the resolution was not satisfying. The idea at the core of Revolver is too deeply buried and disguised to come across and Ritchie deliberately muddies the waters to make the whole affair appear more interesting than it actually is. Like a piece of modern art we are challenged to "interpret" the meaning, Ritchie suggests we may have to undergo several repeat viewings to unlock the glorious secrets within, presumably depending on how stupid we are, but I for one am not suffering that much for my art.