Guy Ritchie on “Revolver”

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By Aaron Hillis

IFC News

[Photos: Jason Statham in Guy Ritchie’s “Revolver,” Samuel Goldwyn Films, 2007]

Strutting his pomo plumage with 1998’s “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” and 2000’s “Snatch,” English writer-director Guy Ritchie proved then that Quentin Tarantino wasn’t the only player on the field who could kick out a witty, whizz-bang crime flick. And because two out of three ain’t ever bad, you can almost forgivingly laugh off his “Swept Away” remake in anticipation of what could’ve been a welcome rebound, until high expectations felled the rising fanboy giant. Finally seeing a U.S. release, Ritchie’s hyper-kitschy return to Gangsterville, “Revolver,” unloaded upon the 2005 Toronto Film Festival to a notoriously damning critical reception, and the British theatrical run didn’t fare much smoother. (Rather than read the hometown reviews, check out this curious investigation into the film’s poster-campaign controversy.) “Revolver” stars frequent Ritchie collaborator Jason Statham as a greasy-haired con artist who — after seven years in jail for a crime he didn’t, well, you know — has come to exact revenge on Speedo-wearing casino boss Ray Liotta and his quirkily named henchmen. Slather that with countless quotes from the likes of Julius Caesar and Macchiavelli, Kabbalahist symbolism, three days to live from a rare blood disease, sphinx-like thugs André 3000 and Vincent “Big Pussy” Pastore, monologuing over chess, an anime interlude, a metaphysical rug-pull of a climax, and well… it’s probably better to let Madge’s hubby do the explaining.

If you don’t mind, I’d like to cut to the chase. What took so long to get “Revolver” to the U.S.?

Well, I don’t think anyone understood it. I don’t think it’s any more complex than that. I mean, one of the cons of the movie is that your mind won’t accept a game this big, [nor] accept the simplicity of the concept. But your mind’s sort of geared up, that’s what the film’s about. It’s geared up not to understand the premise that you are your own con man, or the con man is hiding in your own head. The reason that we fall for adverts and so forth is that our mind is conditioned to understand illusions. It doesn’t understand truth. In fact, it’s repulsed by truth.

But tangibly, what do you think wasn’t being understood? There are plenty of successful art-house films that deal in abstracts.

Absolutely, and incidentally, once you understand something about this film, it’s sort of dramatically simple. I can’t remember [its title], but there was a movie that I saw recently that I thought was so fucking complex and I thought, “Hold on, I’m having a hard time thinking mine’s complex, and this…” I mean, you’re right. There are so many movies that are so abstract. There was a line in the previous [version of “Revolver”] that is “If you try to save them to destroy him, they’ll destroy you to save him,” which is the idea that you’re protecting your own pain. So in proportion to how close you are to exposing your pain, that’s proportionate to how much you’ll be despised for it. I mean, I don’t know what I can tell you. It’s the movie that I made, and it’s a niche movie. It was never made to be massively accessible. I wanted it to be sort of an intellectual gangster movie. There’s not many of them.

That’s a bit different from what you say in the press notes interview, where you joked that you never expected to “end up talking about high-flatulent concepts” and that you got into filmmaking because you were “interested in making entertaining movies.” How do you find that balance?

Ironically, the premise behind this movie is the most exciting of all premises, but it’s hard to see it. I mean, if you speak to Jason [Statham] about this, he’ll tell you that it took a while for it to dawn. But when it does, it’s “the” premise. It’s what all other movies are about. The last three movies I saw are about the same thing. You feed your demons at some point. They start off as infants, and they grow into fucking great dragons in the case of “Beowulf.” Or in “Michael Clayton,” the corporation got consumed by its own consumption and then tried to deny that someone would do all sorts of nefarious activities in order to deny that it was a nefarious institution initially. So what was all that? The mind was playing tricks, both individually and collectively. The mind’s a fucking trickster, man. That’s not news, but there’s some ambiguity about it. I didn’t want to be ambiguous. I wanted to be very specific about the fact that we’re at war with our own fucking minds. There’s no beating around the bush, that’s the reality of the situation. I just want to be really clear about that. [laughs] So that’s why it’s entertaining, because all narratives are based on that premise. We’re all hard-wired to be interested in that.

So who do you see as most guilty of not acknowledging that, general audiences or critics?

There were two things: One, I think the film was marketed in the wrong way, in the respect that it looked like it was just going to be an accessible gangster movie. It looked like we were advertising oranges and really selling apples. I don’t think that was too smart. Secondly, you have to be really specific about this movie. From my point of view, let it do what it says on the tin. If it says this movie is gonna fuckin’ tax you intellectually, be prepared for that. And in that way, I don’t think you’re going to be disappointed. It’s important that you do know what it is that you’re getting into, don’t you think?

Sure. But I have to admit, I don’t know what I’m getting into because I haven’t actually seen this new U.S. cut. I’ve only experienced the original version that screened at Toronto two years ago. How different is the re-edited film?

It’s about ten minutes shorter, maybe a little bit more. We’ve just made a few points clearer. I mean, we’ve deliberately made it more complex than the first one because we wanted people to have a hard time working it out. But we found that, once you fuckin’ spell it out, people still have a hard enough time trying to piece it all together, even when you tell them what it is in the first three lines. I think there’s a line in there now, which is: “There really is no such as an external enemy,” which is from the first page of some book on suicide. It just tells you, but people still say, “What’s the movie about?” So there’s no question that the mind doesn’t want to understand. There’s a gang of psychiatrists at the end of this, as well, sort of telling you what it’s about.

Had you taken this universal premise you speak of and put it into a genre you’re not regularly recognized for, do you think maybe the reactions might’ve been different?

No, I don’t think so. It would’ve been good that “the Guy Ritchie thing” — which in the U.K. is kind of a brand, right? — if that hadn’t gotten in the way, it would’ve made life easier. But you’re not going to get around the fact that it’s a square hole and a round peg, you know? Either people will suddenly get into that and like it for that, or they won’t, and there’s nothing really I can do about that. If a film’s good, I think it comes through in the end. I can’t be the judge of that; it’ll percolate or it won’t. It’s out of my hands.

“Revolver” opens in limited release December 7th.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.