Revolver (2005) / Thriller-Drama

MPAA Rated: Not rated, but probably R for violence and language
Running Time: 115 min.

Cast: Jason Statham, Ray Liotta, Andre Benjamin, Vincent Pastore, Terrence Maynard, Andrew Howard, Tom Wu
Director: Guy Ritchie

Screenplay: Guy Ritchie
Review published March 17, 2006

Guy Ritchie returns to flashy crime dramas after five years with Revolver, which sees a much more serious and philosophical side to the filmmaker than his previous outings.  Viewers expecting a cheeky, irreverent good time should know that this isn't quite the crowd-pleaser that Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch were.  This is an ambitious work, which can cut two ways; it will either blow your mind or completely lose you, depending on your tolerance for outlandishly aspirant artistic endeavors.  Pretentious, yes, but assuredly so most of the time, until Ritchie reaches for just a bit more than he can handle as his film nears its increasingly theoretical conclusion.

Jason Statham (Transporter 2, Cellular) stars as conman Jake Green, back out to make a fast buck, even faster than he did before getting sent up the river for seven years with a bad rap.  He employs the teachings he once gleaned from two fellow genius inmates, taking advantage of situations, and turning the odds, however seemingly insurmountable, in his favor.  Green sets his sights on revenge on the guy he went down for, crime kingpin Macha (Liotta, The Last Shot), but soon gets diagnosed with a rare disease that gives him mere days to live.  However, it turns out he has a couple of guardian angels (of sorts) in the form of a couple of high-rolling loan sharks, who offer to keep him alive if he hands over all of his cash and does anything they say.  Green consents, but not without a price, as he finds he has little stomach for the job, in addition to putting himself smack dab in the middle of a deadly push between rival bad guys all fighting for a bigger slice of the proverbial pie.

Revolver is an intelligent and thought-provoking thriller, although some might find it too smart for its own good.  Ritchie reaches deep to imbue his gangster opera with significance and lasting importance, and while he does succeed in delivering a profound experience, there are moments where the artifice of the characterizations and plot machinations makes it all a too-large pill to swallow.  Ritchie clearly is trying to make something more than a snarky thriller here -- he's trying to craft a work of art.  How much his art is appreciated will most likely depend on you, the viewer, to assess. 

Speaking for myself, I find Revolver to be a challenging and elevated work that has its share of flaws.  Ultimately, I do think that there are moments where Ritchie's ambitions do pay off, enough to make the experience quite worthwhile, especially for those that love conmen thrillers but are sick of seeing the same things done in the exact same ways.  It's a gorgeously realized film, with slick camera movements, sumptuous cinematography, and adept orchestrations.  The actors are, as is Ritchie's tendency, eccentric and colorful, but always engaging.  There's just too much good stuff here to dismiss as an overreaching misfire.

It's almost a shame that Guy Ritchie attached his name to Revolver, as this would be heralded as a promisingly great work for any unknown filmmaker with no baggage.  However, expect the commercial critics to jeer, not having quenched their bloodlust after his god-awful Swept Away and the fact that the philosophical meanderings will be perceived as Kaballah-influenced.  I think it's a bit unfair, as Revolver is far more interesting and thoughtful than most to explore the tired conmen genre.  I have a feeling, should the rest of Ritchie's career pan out as successful, that those that didn't care for the direction taken by him here will see Revolver as the director's most challenging and underappreciated work.   Don't worry, Guy -- like a revolving door, what's out with critics will soon be in again
.  Perhaps the title is appropriate on another level. 

Qwipster's rating:

2006 Vince Leo