Revolver pretty much confirms what I have long suspected: that Guy Ritchie is an overrated one-trick pony. While Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch may have been snappy, cheeky gangster capers, Revolver is an overlong, self-indulgent, boring mess which may or may not, depending on how much you want to read in to it, have worrying undertones of Mrs Madonna Ritchie’s Kabbalistic cult noodlings shoe-horned in.
Jake Green (Statham in standard-issue single expression, monotone growl form) is a gambler just out from seven years in solitary confinement for a crime he didn’t really commit. Now a free man he aims to settle a debt owed to him by scheming Casino boss Macha (Ray Liotta sporting some worryingly plucked eyebrows and chewing scenery like it’s made by Wrigley). Just when it looks like everything is rosy he gets “adopted” by two loan sharks (Pastori and Benjamin) who take him on a bizarre journey of violence, drugs and double crossing. Who are they and why are they doing this and how does it relate to Jake’s quest for revenge against Macha? After suffering two hours of Revolver, you really won’t care and that’s fine because the answers are blindingly obvious and the solution unsatisfying.
Jason Statham growls his way through his role as Jake Green complete with incessant, po-faced and mostly unnecessary voiceover which flip-flops between narration and Dune-style inner-monologues. The narration is so bogged down in impenetrable pretentious cod-psychobabble and delivered in such a droning one note style that I found myself on more than one occasion instinctively tuning out due to sheer boredom. What makes it even worse is that almost all of the movie is narrated in this awful way. And just in case you don’t catch the several old proverbs Ritchie has Statham repeat over and over again, they tend to pop up more than once in handy flash cards throughout the pic.
Derivative doesn’t quite cover what’s on display here. Revolver feels like what happens when the man who already has delusions of being a poor man’s Quentin Tarantino starts trying to mix in the added style of Steven Soderberg with the intrigue of Bryan Singer’s The Usual Suspects. Hell there’s even some of Fincher’s Fight Club thrown in for good measure. Not bad company to try and keep I suppose, but it comes with a frighteningly high quality bar to reach and with Revolver, Ritchie lands face first on the asphalt. It's all second-hand style, with double-crosses and metaphysical meanderings sitting in for substance.
If things weren’t bad enough already, about a third of the way in, Ritchie even throws in a painfully self-referential scene where, for reasons that can only be explained as another stupid “homage” to his hero Tarantino’s Kill Bill, he flip flops a scene between live-action and an anime style, presumably, simply because the scene involves Japanese gangsters. It’s awkward, it’s silly, and it just doesn’t fit.
The movie's few good moments come courtesy of Ray Liotta’s hammed up performance, giving orders in the nude while standing in his 20’x20’ tanning booth. Ritchie tries to inject humor into other scenes, but they're all witless to anyone but a fourteen year old boy. Also worthy of a mention is Mark Strong as Macha’s Leon-style hitman, who could teach Timothy Olyphant a few things on how to portray a balding ,steely assassin (No surprise really with Leon director Besson acting as producer).
But overall Revolver is an awful, awful mess of a film and from it, it's clear that the only reason Mr. Madonna is still in work is because of who he is married to. I’m sure Ritchie had grand plans to create a new more cerebral kind of gangster movie, but without previous producer partner Matthew Vaughn to reign in his self-indulgent side this time round, the movie misses the mark by a wide margin. You can’t be cerebral at the cost of being entertaining. And as if to confirm my suspicions over his range and ability, Ritchie’s next movie already in production is, yes you guessed it, yet another British gangster flick. I think it’s time this pony was taken to the glue factory.