Review by Gordon Justesen
Stars: Jason Statham, Ray
Liotta, Vincent Pastore, Andre Benjamin, Mark Strong, Terrence Maynard,
Director: Guy Ritchie
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Features: See Review
Length: 104 Minutes
Release Date: March 18, 2008
“In every game and con there's always an opponent, and there's always a victim. The trick is to know when you're the latter, so you can become the former.”
Here you have a film with all the right ingredients that should’ve added up to a terrific cinematic recipe. For one thing, the notion of director Guy Ritchie returning to his stylish crime movie roots following his disastrous last film, Swept Away, should have guaranteed an easy home run. It’s not to say that Ritchie should stick to a specific genre, but he is one filmmaker who can make similarly themed movies without the feeling that he’s repeating himself.
While Revolver is nowhere near as awful as that last film, which I don’t ever want to bring up again, it’s sure to be a letdown for those expecting something on the level of Ritchie’s first two great films; Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. The real disappointing factor is that the first ten minutes of the film is so engaging and thrilling. As the movie began, I was so hooked in to the point that I was certain this was going another worthy crime movie success from Mr. Ritchie.
But as the story progresses, Revolver unleashes the strangest multiple personality case I’ve seen any film go through in, well, maybe forever. And though it’s not the least bit boring and even includes a scene or two of some trademark Guy Ritchie violence, the movie establishes multiple tones and as a result, the story ends up inexplicable at best. I defy anyone to make sense of it.
So I’ll concentrate on what I can explain, which I don’t think will be much…but anyway, here goes. The plot involves Jake Green (Jason Statham), is a gambler who is looking to exact revenge against a sinister casino boss named Macha (Ray Liotta). As the film begins, Jake goes up against Macha in a card game and winds up cleaning up the house. Macha responds by putting a hit out on Jake.
Jake survives the hit and soon ends up in the company of two mysterious loan sharks, Avi (Andre Benjamin) and Zach (Vincent Pastore). He then finds himself working for these two, who have crossed his path through some act of fate. With their help, Jake plans to execute his revenge against Macha.
But along the way Jake learns some startling discoveries. The first of which is that he may, or may not, be carrying a deadly blood disease. The second surprise is that he keeps be distracted by a voice he keeps hearing in his head…a voice that sounds like his but may just be a secret personality he was never aware of, and yet his new employers, Avi and Zach, have always known.
Once those plot developments were presented, Revolver immediately lost me. The entire psychological subplot feels stretched out to the point where it should make sense, and yet it never does. And even though this film was shot and completed in 2005, I couldn’t help but be bothered by the blood disease plotline and numerous other elements that echoed a much better movie starring Jason Statham, the brilliantly insane action flick Crank, released in 2006.
But the film isn’t without some redeeming qualities. There is a shootout midway though the movie which comes so unexpectedly and is executed in such an original way, that it comes across as riveting (Ritchie always delivers some unique moments of violence in his films about the underworld). And a later scene where Statham is in an elevator confronting his split personality is a visually engaging moment, despite once again echoing a scene from Crank.
Maybe in the end, I was just ill prepared for what the movie ended up being. It feels as if Ritchie wanted to make a stylish crime flick with elements of The Usual Suspects and Donnie Darko thrown into the mix. It may take another viewing or two to fully get the movie, and since I didn’t find Revolver to be anywhere close to awful, that may just be a possibility. But I’ll hand it to Guy Ritchie, it’s great to see him back on the turf he knows so well.
Revolver is definitely a visually dynamic movie, and Sony makes the most of that quality with a stunning looking presentation. The array of colors in just about every shot of the film are a pure knockout, and this is one movie that is alive with color from beginning to end. Some bits of animation even find way into the movie. The image quality is superbly crisp and sharp, with an amazing level of detail.
The 5.1 mix brings a great deal of force to the frenetic sound that accompanies the film. Anyone who’s familiar with Guy Ritchie’s work comes to expect two crucial things; an ultra groovy soundtrack and intense sounding violence. Here, those elements are heard in pure outstanding form. Dialogue is as clear as a bell, adding up to a remarkable sounding disc.
This Sony release is packed with some outstanding extras in the barrel. The commentary track with Guy Ritchie and editor James Herbert is terrific in the way it tries to un-confuse the viewer, as even they admit the film is extremely complicated. Also included are three featurettes; “The Game: The Making of Revolver”, “Revolver: Making the Music” and “The Concept”, which features an interview with Guy Ritchie and editor James Herbert. Also featured are Deleted/Extended Scenes, an Outtakes reel, a Photo Gallery, Music Trailer, and Bonus Preview gallery, which includes trailers for Southland Tales and Snatch.
Revolver is quite a mess, albeit not a boring mess. The one too many plot angles and shifts in tone nearly gave me a headache, and for all I know that was the purpose of the film. But I do applaud Guy Ritchie for returning to the genre he should stick to, and I definitely look forward to the next cinematic trick up his sleeve.