Judge Ryan Keefer thinks this is more "For No One" than "Tomorrow Never Knows."
Your mind will not accept a game this big.
So I think we all can agree that Guy Ritchie, aside from making a British gangster film every so often, doesn't really do much more than smile for his soon-to-be ex-wife Madonna at premieres. Between scheduled trysts with said wife (and her time at the gym), checking her fake British accent, and staying at home counting the wealth, Ritchie fancies himself a cinematic auteur. But does Revolver ultimately break from the usual film he tries to make?
Facts of the Case
Ritchie came up with the story (big surprise) which fellow director Luc Besson (The Fifth Element) adapted. Jake (Jason Statham, Snatch) has been released from prison and wants to get some money out of the gangster (Ray Liotta, Wild Hogs) who helped put him there. In the middle of all this, he is helped by Avi (Andre Benjamin, Semi-Pro) and Zach (Vincent Pastore, The Sopranos), who present him with a way out, which includes him getting bled for all of his money and, if he chooses not to take part, will result in his death. Throw in a Chinese underworld boss and some theories about how to pick and play games of chance and you get Revolver.
Remember when Ritchie came onto the scene, people loved Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and everyone thought he was the creative British love child of Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese? Yeah, I remember those days too. Now it's just tiring trying to sit through every one of these efforts, the apex of which might very well be Revolver. The film is the best attempt by Ritchie to bait and switch an entire film. By the end we get several medical professionals talking about the power of psychology. Why do I feel like I just sat through a Kabbalah session?
And what's up with this cast? Statham must be doing this film out of perverse loyalty or because he lost a bet. Liotta's character must REALLY like to tan, which I guess is not that big of a deal, but the banana hammock is. It's also mystifying to see Benjamin and Pastore in roles that they are clearly not suited for. Benjamin plays a guy named Avi (which I thought belong to old Jewish jewel fences in Ritchie's cinematic world), and Pastore plays, well, Pastore, without too much goombah charm and honor. Putting unproven guys in supporting roles where a bit more was demanded was stupid. Comparing Revolver to The Bank Job—another recent British crime film Statham starred in—the latter had a more polished supporting cast and a story that was not at all mumbo jumbo, both of which I like when it comes to movies these days.
Even though I didn't much like Revolver, the AVC MPEG-4 encode of this 2.35:1 feature presentation sure did look nice. Ritchie was using a lot of visual tricks, like anime, slow motion, and reverse imagery. Detail and background depth were both better than I was expecting, with a slight layer of film grain is present throughout. The blacks tended to crush a little, but otherwise this is solid. The bigger enjoyment was the TrueHD track, thundering full of subwoofer activity. The background score was fun to pick up on, and the soundstage was crisp and clean when bullets would pan by. The dialogue was the only thing that seemed to hold it back, as it tended to be on the weak side and not level in the center channel. But Ritchie sure does know what the audience wants, when it comes to technical stuff I guess.
Supplementally, everything from the standard definition disc is back for another go in high definition, starting with a commentary by Ritchie and editor James Herbert. The track itself isn't too shabby and Ritchie tries addressing some of the criticisms head on. But if he can sum up the story here in the first three minutes by using phrases like "transcendence of the conceptualized self," why couldn't he do that in film? He goes on to cover shot breakdown, character symbolism, and other broad strokes used in the film. The making of piece (24:30) shows Ritchie on set with his cast, and what the cast thinks of him—particularly Statham, with whom he's worked several times. Eight deleted and extended scenes follow, including alternate opening and closing sequences. Ritchie thought these were too ambiguous and confused the film, like that was possible. The blooper reel (4:03) is surprisingly funny. A look at the film's music (14:08) features thoughts from the scoring and soundtrack musicians, in terms of what Ritchie allowed them to do. Including the film's soundtrack trailer is a nice touch. A separate conversation with Ritchie and Herbert is the last extra (16:15), which covers some of what the commentary missed, which isn't much.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Despite his physical appearance, Liotta might be the best part of the film. He plays a guy that shows his anger when he needs to, but at times finds himself in a little over his head. He plays the "weaker" side rather well, especially during the assassination attempt. He's the only one that's willing to give his full trust to Ritchie, which might explain the tanning lamps and wardrobe choices.
You know how other films warn you to pay attention and if you sleep or leave the room for a second you find yourself lost? Revolver is kind of like that. I really wanted to get into watching the film but, without a lot of character nuance and dark humor, it kind of feels like, well…Layer Cake…except not nearly as polished. If you liked the film and have a Blu-ray player, pounce on it; newbies to this particular dance, bounce on it.
Guilty as charged.
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Scales of Justice
• "The Concept"
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