Movie Review: Revolver
By Sid Smith, Chicago Tribune Arts Critic
Word was that Guy Ritchie's "Revolver," when first released in Great Britain two years ago, was a return to his neo-gangster roots, a movie more in the "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" vein than "Swept Away," his disastrous effort with wife Madonna.
But the Brits weren't swept away by this one either. Widely panned, "Revolver" topped a 2005 online poll of worst movies of the year, ahead of "Alexander," "Bewitched" and "The Dukes of Hazzard."
Re-edited, "Revolver" now arrives on our shores, not the disaster described in the British press but unlikely to restore Ritchie's luster. Part gambling heist, part graphic novel, part metaphysical mumbo jumbo, "Revolver" is a mess of many colors, few of them satisfying. It's dense, visually audacious, clipped in editing and loud in sound effects, and it reeks of the manly effluvium so vaporous in "Lock," "Pulp Fiction" and even "The Sopranos," whose Vincent Pastore ("Big Pussy") plays a key role.
Dazzling to watch at times and perplexing to contemplate, "Revolver" ultimately takes on too many genres too facilely to be worth it. You're assaulted by MTV video intensity, comic book emotions, head-scratching plot shenanigans and even some scenes that revert inexplicably to computer cartoons. But you squirm, worn out by a puzzle neither that complex nor worth the effort to solve. And the underlying philosophical profundity isn't all that profound, lamely explained after the final blackout by a team of talking heads pronouncing the ego as our ultimate nemesis. Any pop movie that needs a postscript of mini-lectures is in trouble, and Pogo said it better anyway: We have met the enemy, and he is us.
The story occurs in a surrealist setting, brightened by garish Las Vegas lights, "Spider Man" skyscrapers and rococo interiors. The dollar bills look American but come in $12 denominations - a locale of the postmodern mind. A sullen, pithy con named Green (Jason Statham) is just out of jail after taking the rap for gambling kingpin Macha (Ray Liotta). Green's intent on payback. But he's hampered by the sudden onset of a fatal blood disease, only to be reprieved from that by a mysterious, unholy pair of loan sharks, Zack (Pastore) and Avi (Andre Benjamin of OutKast), whose sleaziness is laced with mystical, extrasensory powers. They take control over him and his newfound gambling winnings.
Green (references to Mr. Green and a mysterious Mr. Gold form a fatuous "Reservoir Dogs" homage) struggles to figure out what's going on and who's the real villain. Liotta engages in a bloody war with a rival and comes to suspect Green as the mastermind. All of it may or may not by manipulated by Zack and Avi, bent on leading Green through a kind of hoodlum version of Alice's Wonderland. There's gore, sadistic gangland torture and a couple of breathtaking shootouts.
Statham is fun to watch, blessed with a shadowy appeal. But Liotta is embarrassing, forced to overact badly in one scene, screeching, his faced streaked with tears, and elsewhere ranting inside an elaborate tanning room, clad only in skivvies. But don't blame this great screen heavy for his missteps. The director's the one wearing no clothes.
Directed and written by Guy Ritchie; photographed by Tim Maurice-Jones; edited by James Herbert, Ian Differ and Romesh Aluwihare; music by Nathaniel Mechaly; production design by Eve Stewart; produced by Luc Besson and Virginie Silla. A Samuel Goldywn Films release. Running time: 1:46. MPAA rating: R (for violence, terror and disturbing images).
Green - Jason Statham
Macha - Ray Liotta
Zack - Vincent Pastore
Avi - Andre Benjamin