Revolver (France/United Kingdom, 2005)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

Revolver had its world premiere at the 2005 Toronto Film Festival, some 27 months before finding its way into a small number of U.S. multiplexes. If that says nothing else, it's that distributors shied away from the film, fearing its complete lack of commercial potential. Considering that the director is the hip and violent Guy Ritchie, the man behind Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, this might seem surprising - until one sees this disastrous mess that is masquerading as a motion picture. Often, if you ask me about something I saw at a film festival more than two years ago, I'll draw a blank. But I recall Revolver with surprising clarity - for all the wrong reasons. Before this, Swept Away was universally viewed as Ritchie's worst effort. Revolver is supposed to be his comeback - a return to the genre in which his success was born. With this movie, we are supposed to believe that the remake of the Lina Wertmuller film was an aberration. But, surprise of surprises, Revolver turns out to be worse than Swept Away - and not just by a little bit.

I have to wonder whether the difference between "old" Ritchie and "new" Ritchie is Matthew Vaughn. Vaughn produced both Lock Stock and Snatch before going on to direct Layer Cake. His name does not appear on the credit list for Revolver - in fact, it has been replaced by that of French schlockmeister Luc Besson, who seems to have his hand in every non-Hollywood action movie. Or maybe Ritchie's recent infatuation with Kabbalah is to blame. Whatever the reason, Revolver is a misfire of shocking proportions.

The premise sounds promising, but that means little. An ex-con, Jake Green (Jason Stratham), is released from prison and decides to take revenge upon the crime boss, Macha (Ray Liotta), who gets the blame for putting him inside. After publicly humiliating Macha, Jake thinks he has evened the score. But Macha is pissed and puts out a contract on Jake's life. Enter Avi (Andre Benjamin) and Zach (Vincent Pastore), who act as Jake's guardian angels. It turns out that Jake has a fatal blood disease and will die in a few days but, if he signs over all his money to these two guys and agrees to work for them, they'll keep him alive until his ailment eliminates him. This all leads to incoherence, an unbelievably drawn-out ending, and a "twist" that even an inattentive viewer will see coming. None of the cleverness, dark humor, or wit of Ritchie's first two offerings are to be found. There is violence but, with the lone exception of hit-man's conscience-spurred spree near the end of the movie, little flair. (Ironically, Statham would continue his career with Crank, a vastly superior revenge movie about a dying thug.)

I wanted to like Revolver - wanted to so much, in fact, that I stayed until the bitter end. My patience was not rewarded. Ritchie begins cheating about half-way through the movie, refusing to play by the rules he has established, then blaming it all on an unreliable narrator. Even by cheating, however, he is unable to sew up all the holes he has created. And as things make increasingly less sense, Revolver devolves into little more than yelling, opera singing, and overacting. (Ray Liotta gets the crown in that department.) This is Ritchie having the cinematic equivalent of a nervous breakdown and regurgitating it onto the screen. And it's not just incoherent violence. There's plenty of mystical, pseudo-intellectual verbal diarrhea. Self-indulgent doesn't begin to describe it.

Revolver (France/United Kingdom, 2005)

Run Time: 1:55
U.S. Release Date: 2007-12-07
MPAA Rating: "R" (Profanity, Violence, Nudity)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1