Revolver Is A Movie That Wants To Tell You Something, But Is Caught Up In Its Own Ego
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Whenever an auteur puts all effort into a work he puts out, sometimes he’ll believe that he’ll make the most wonderful work of art he’s ever made in his entire life. Sometimes, like the mother of a troublesome child, he’ll be the only man who thinks his work is a masterpiece. It’s hard to blame him; it is his labor of love, after all.
When it comes to Revolver, a French crime thriller movie made by filmmaker Guy Ritchie and released back in the year 2005, the movie polarized its own audience because of how personal and stylized the work was, despite a surprisingly stellar cast.
Not everyone got it, reviews were split right down the middle, but at the same time, it didn’t seem like a movie that was made for everyone to get. This particular review is an attempt to figure out which side of the fence I stay in.
Before we discuss its merits, let’s do a quick rundown of the plot, shall we? Revolver is a film that follows the story of Dorothy Macha, a gang boss (played by American actor Ray Liotta) who’s involved in illegal gambling all over the city. (Which city it is is something we don’t really know.) Macha controls the underground operations all over the city with the help of his crew, called “the three Eddies”; however, just before one big game, Macha loses his card man, a player under his employ that would beat all the other players in the games. He tries to enlist the services of skilled underground card player Jake Green (our protagonist played by Jason Statham, a veteran of these kinds of movies). Jake refuses, and Macha’s crew coerces him into playing by harassing his brother Billy and his family to convince Jake to play. In the game he wins, the losing high roller starts a fight with Jake, in which the money he won disappears.
The police gets involved in an investigation about the money and the underground gambling, and Macha’s crew threatens Billy’s family in order to discourage Jake from snitching on him. Jake ends up taking the fall for Macha and spends seven years in solitary confinement, in which he learns of a game-winning Formula that will allow its user to win every game, come up with by two men in cells beside Jake’s. The two men escape the prison and leave Jake behind, after promising him that he’ll be taken with them, and take all his possessions. Once Jake gets out of his sentence, he uses the Formula to win every game and make a lot of money in casinos in order to make all he lost back. He gets reunited with Billy, who had the unenviable task of moving on after the horrors he experienced in his life, and their brother Joe.
Two years after his release, Jake walks into a casino owned by Macha, who closes all the tables on the floor to him and invites him to a private game with high rollers to deal with him personally. Suspecting that Jake would be out for revenge, Macha puts out a hit on Jake, which he survives. A lot of twists and turns in the movie lead Jake to reunite with the two con men that taught him the formula while in solitary confinement; it turns out that the two men are actually two mysterious, supreme beings that personify ego and greed. They might even have powers, and eventually what starts out being some sort of criminal underground action thriller movie ends up becoming some sort of spiritual experience. They teach Jake how to really use the Formula for more than just financial benefit, because it’s actually a philosophy thing that reveals a lot about a person. Dorothy Macha ends up losing somehow in ways we don’t understand; only that he gave in and succumbed to his own ego, which is every person’s downfall.
Revolver is visually sleek and sexy. I can’t really deny that, and I have to admit that I like the way Guy Ritchie puts everything together behind the camera. It could even be a forerunner to today’s slick comic book movies; I can see a little bit of movies like 300 and Snowpiercer in the way it carries itself. It’s easy to draw in moviegoers to this kind of movie they’re putting out, and it’s really easy for them to be deceived. It’s not surprising, as you would need a hook to get them in. Check out one of the trailers for the movie, which is actually a long clip of when Jake and Billy walk into Macha’s casino after he gets released from prison:
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Revolver is a movie that is intent on preaching something, something along the themes of the religion/belief Kabbalah according to director Guy Ritchie, but the message is so convoluted by the time you get to the end that it doesn’t quite matter so much anymore. That is, if you ended up understanding it at all. The three main characters of Jake, Zach, and Avi (the two con men he meets in prison) are Hebrew references to Bible characters. The colors green (as in Jake’s last name), white, and black have important, specific connotations to Kabbalistic concepts. And then there’s a quote that the movie’s characters often repeat, which they seem to imbue with some sort of spiritual importance: “Nothing hurts more than humiliation and a little money loss.” It’s not the most elegant of quotes, and it’s the mantra they go back to in order to justify Jake’s little revenge tour. But yes, they want you to know that there is a spiritual undercurrent lying underneath this action thriller, for some reason. It’s like this movie wants to be a cross between Sin City and The Matrix, but falling too flat on its face.
It’s all a little confusing because Revolver wants to be a lot of things without figuring out how exactly it’s going to be those things.
The fact that everything is a mess makes it easy for us to review and tell people that this isn’t really a nice movie to watch, but it’s also a shame, considering that it seemed to have a lot of ambition.
Despite all its convolutedness, there seems to be something there that’s waiting for a better hand to reveal it. I can’t understand how big cast members like Ray Liotta and Jason Statham were suckered into this project, and I’m not sure how they were able to stand making the movie, saying their ridiculous lines, and looking ridiculous. The movie marks one of the first feature projects of rapper Andre 3000, who’s pretty weird himself, so I can understand how he took this role on.
So Revolver just isn’t a good movie. It’s not outright terrible, but I can see how its style and aesthetic could charm half of the audience. For anyone looking for a cheap thrill, sometimes that’s all you need. All the preaching will only be successful depending on who watches it; it makes sense that only half of reviewers and moviegoers will get it, just as much as there will be a part of the audience that just doesn’t. It wants to look good, but also wants to deliver some kind of substance, but it just doesn’t work, I think. They might have needed someone to help them streamline the movie’s script and flesh out all the ideas they wanted to convey. It was a noble attempt, I’ll give them that; an attempt that was slightly misguided, but one I can’t really fault Guy Ritchie for making.
Should you watch Revolver? Maybe if you wanted a movie you could watch while you’re high on drugs or alcohol, it could work. If you’re into a dumb but good-looking thriller that try to pack some spiritual substance, then here you go, this film is for you. If you’re really, really into Kabbalah (even though it was a fad that was only big early last decade), then yes, you would probably appreciate this movie. It’s something you can watch with friends on a Saturday night when you’re looking for a movie to laugh at. Not that it deserves to be laughed at, but I can’t blame you if you find it funny. Sorry, Guy Ritchie.
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