Jake Green (Jason Statham, "The Transporter") has been released from a seven-year prison sentence, and is looking to exact revenge on Macha (Ray Liotta), the mob boss/casino owner who put him there. Achieving his goal swiftly, Green learns that he's doomed with a fatal blood disease and only has days left to live. Teaming up with loan sharks Avi (Andre Benjamin, "Four Brothers") and Zach (Vincent Pastore, "The Sopranos"), Green looks to change his life, yet finds himself stunted by Macha's thirst for retaliation, and the ominous presence of Mr. Gold, a mysterious crime figure who haunts the underworld.
The latest from Guy Ritchie is a slippery mind-bender, intended to disrupt the average moviegoer's complacency with the cinema experience. Perhaps licking his wounds from the critical and financial thrashing he took with 2002's "Swept Away," Ritchie returns to the glossy crime genre that made him famous (and his oeuvre dorm room poster staples), but he's turned those expectations into a chance to explore more bizarre and cerebral terrain with this new production.
"Revolver" reminded me quite a bit of Richard Kelly's near-masterpiece, "Donnie Darko." Both films have a taste for the deliberately confusing, sharing scripts that take the viewer on a dark ride that requires much more thought than one simple viewing will allow. "Revolver" is a Lament Configuration encompassing themes of greed, redemption, and madness. It's gift wrapped nicely in traditional Ritchie language of thugs and guns, but the focal point here is mystery and deliberately screwy storytelling. Some (possibly many) will feel that Ritchie is pushing his luck, relying on purposefully ambiguous ideas to string together a smugly perplexing movie. Honestly, I couldn't disagree with that sentiment, but I found myself completely won over by Ritchie's enthusiasm, and marveled at his picture's hell-bent lunacy.
The game of chess plays a crucial role in "Revolver," with Ritchie arranging the film into one enormous gaming board. Using visual and aural clues, along with Green's constant inner-monologue, the film explores the beauty of the con, and the manic duality of the con artist. Ritchie fills the frame with symbolism, clues, and disorder to keep the viewer guessing, as though the audience was in a chess match with the filmmaker and he continually holds the upper hand. Ritchie is throwing such massive handfuls of philosophy and misdirection at the screen that the whole endeavor threatens to crash down around him. And it almost does, in one eternal scene where Green confronts the pestering voices in his head. Ritchie recovers quickly though, and still manages to make this curious film entertaining, even if at times it makes you dizzy.
The jigsaw puzzle plot of "Revolver" does offer many treats, including the first full-bodied performance from Jason Statham. While the role doesn't require him to emote extensively, it does solidify his Lee Marvin-like charms, and continues his successful relationship with Ritchie, which always seems to bring out the best in the actor. The film also reignites the director's interest in cautious, deliberate compositional choices and camera tricks. The visual spice livens up "Revolver" significantly (including an unexpected animated sequence), acting as a pillow the more baffling material can rest upon.
"Revolver" is a difficult recommendation to make. The film doesn't offer literal answers (or, for that matter, even end credits), and might be a frustrating sit to some. However, this is the perfect movie for those who like to crack things open and dig around the innards, with Ritchie encouraging interpretation and curiosity with each new scene.
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