By Matt Singer
[Photo: “Revolver,” Samuel Goldwyn Films, 2007]
“We are all approval junkies. We’re all in it for the slap on the back,” one character helpfully informs us in Guy Ritchie’s “new” film “Revolver.” Ritchie will have to look elsewhere for any backslapping, but would you settle for some knee-slapping over this laughably crummy conman thriller and “Kabbalist’s Guide to Chess” instructional video?
This long-shelved project which premiered in the U.K. over two years ago follows a crook named Jake Green (Jason Statham) with an annoying penchant for waxing philosophical in voiceover as he tries to extract a measure of revenge from a former business associate named Macha (Ray Liotta) who played a part in sending him to jail some years earlier. But before he can complete his plan, Green discovers that he has a terminal blood disease whose only cure rests in the hands of another pair of pontificating ruffians: Zach (Vincent Pastore) and Avi (André Benjamin). Also working against Green? His laughably bad hairpiece and handlebar moustache, a follicle ensemble so wretched it looks like the sort of getup worn in the “awkward teenage years” flashbacks in Farrelly brothers comedies.
The interviews with real philosophers and academics that attempt to make some sort of sense out of “Revolver”‘s dreadful ending over the closing credits suggest Ritchie is interested in educating his audience somehow, but his gimmicky camera tricks obscure whatever actual insight the film contains. Consider a lengthy game of chess between Green and Avi, shot almost entirely from the perspective of pieces on the board. The low-angle images are striking, but they distract us from the meat of the two men’s conversation, and they make it totally impossible to actually follow the flow of the chess match (you could also argue that Ritchie is calling his audience a bunch of pawns). No doubt the film’s Kabbalistically infused lessons make perfect sense to Ritchie, but they’re hopelessly lost in the sea of flashbacks and tough guy clichés. Even the “shocking” twist ending is none too shocking; anyone who pays attention through the running time (not an easy proposition, I know!) will figure out the final reveal an hour before the characters do.
The press materials for “Revolver” include an interview with Ritchie in which he explains how to con people. “Feed them an opinion of themselves that makes them feel superior in someway,” he instructs. “Make them feel clever, special or attractive.” “Revolver”‘s empty style, empty enlightenment, and empty story all suggest Ritchie pulled his ultimate con on himself. What kind of movie sits on the shelf for two years before its theatrical release? This kind.