Guy Ritchie’s return to the gangster genre is a confusing, incoherent mess.
What should have been a return to the kind of films that made his name after the embarrassment of Swept Away is actually something equally bad. Although it bears the hallmarks of Lock, Stock… and Snatch (flashy editing, cockney geezers, stone faced hard men) it features a plot so tortuous and confusing you have to wonder if the whole project is some kind of elaborate new-age joke.
The basic premise is a familiar one – a hard man called Jake Green (Jason Statham) comes out of prison and gets drawn back into the criminal underworld. Sounds simple right? Oh no. Things are much more confusing, but I’ll try to offer a basic outline. After a flurry of quotes over the opening titles (“You can only get smarter by playing a smarter opponent”) Statham’s character then manages to irritate a crime boss named Dorothy (yes, you read that right, Dorothy) Macha played by Ray Liotta whilst playing a game of chance in a casino. Macha orders a hit on him but two mysterious loan sharks (Andre Benjamin & Vincent Pastore) offer to help Green, although they too may be using him for their own ends. However, just 20 minutes in you can start to see the narrative suffocating under it’s own pretensions.
All of this could form the basis for an interesting and intelligent thriller but Ritchie has decided to indulge himself in the worst possible ways. Not only do most of the plot strands make little or any sense but the whole thing is narrated by Statham’s character with what is perhaps the worst voice over committed to mainstream film. Some are often used a lazy plot device, but here it seems to be a tool designed to annoy and confuse the audience. Green voices his feelings, meditates on chess and even has a Gollum-style breakdown where his personality splits in two. It is a sequence so overblown it borders on surreal comedy, especially as its punctuated by Ray Liotta repeatedly screaming “Fear me!” whilst wearing skin tight leopard skin underpants. There is also a misguided attempt to ape Kill Bill’s anime sequence and the setting of the film is simply bewildering, coming across as an unholy mixture of Las Vegas and Mile End (it was mostly filmed on the Isle of Man, presumably for tax reasons).
Like Ritchie’s first two films there is some gunplay and the usual cons but here he seems to be making – or trying to make – something much more serious. It seems that he wants to examine the nature of identity and how human beings deceive themselves. But the film doesn’t even get close to saying anything remotely interesting about either. This is a traditional gangster film pumped up with pretentious ideas, flashy camera techniques and meaningless dialogue and the fact that so many of the ideas are constantly repeated though voiceover at every opportunity only makes it all the harder to sit through. Revolver is a thriller that clearly wants to be regarded in the same light as The Usual Suspects or Memento but ends up being a baffling mess.