The intricate way "Revolver" twists and turns over 100 minutes, this DVD should come with a tank of oxygen and two Advil to fully enjoy.
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 troubled by 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 passive 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 staples), but he's turned those expectations into an golden opportunity 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 intentionally confusing, sharing scripts that take the viewer on a dark, sinister ride that requires much more contemplation 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 late in the feature 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 comfortably upon.
"Revolver" is simply and quite effectively an explosion of color. The DVD presentation of the film is quite a miraculous achievement, managing to contain the myriad of complex photographic choices in one single, eye-catching anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1 aspect ratio) transfer. Black levels are quite good and detail is tremendous.
Also sonically hefty, the 5.1 Dolby Digital mix shines bright when blowing up with the full force of soundtrack cuts and ultraviolence. Dialogue is clear and the inner voices are toyed with entertainingly throughout the surrounds.
Perhaps concerned with those who are having trouble digesting his picture, the feature-length audio commentary with writer/director Guy Ritchie (along with editor James Herbert and a roomful of assistants) is a fountain of information helping out those (like me) befuddled with the overall psychological scope of the material. Ritchie describes the film's core as the "transcendence of the conceptualized self," and proceeds to break down most of the scenes in the movie, explaining motivations, clearing up metaphors, and debating the clarity of his points with those in the room.
The commentary is helpful in many ways, and I found it endearing that Ritchie seems to care that his viewers at least understand his intentions, if not the near-biblical undercurrents running through the feature. Ritchie's "am I making sense?" repetition can be trying, but the track is a welcome addition to the insanely complex "Revolver" world.
Deleted/alternate scenes (24 minutes) contain different approaches to explanations and reveals that Ritchie was unsure about, offered here on the DVD for our judgment. The extended moments provided tend to simply fatten scenes and were rightly cut.
"The Game: The Making of 'Revolver'" (25 minutes) attempts to mash up an overview of the thematic roll of the film with traditional cast and crew interviews. On-set footage starts to reveal itself in the second half of the documentary, supplying an appealing summary of the "Revolver" production process and camaraderie among the crew.
"'Revolver:' Making the Music" (14 minutes) chats with composer Nathaniel Mechaly as he describes his artistic choices bringing the picture's funky, bass-heavy score to life. Guy Ritchie is also interviewed (driving around in his car), and wonderful recording session footage is included.
"The Concept" (16 minutes) interviews Guy Ritchie and James Herbert, presumably right after their commentary session. Delving into the production's origins and considerable hurdles of clarity, it's an agreeable extension of the commentary, only now the boys are more tightly edited and questioned.
A photo gallery and instrumental music video (3 minutes) are included.
Finally, the "Revolver" theatrical trailer isn't offered, but peeks at "Southland Tales," "Slipstream," "Cleaner," and "Snatch" (now there's on helluva trailer) are presented.
"Revolver" is a difficult recommendation to make. The film doesn't offer literal answers (the end credits, including interviews with psychologists and philosophers, gives it a try), 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 dazzling scene.
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