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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Revolver (Blu-ray)
Revolver (Blu-ray)
Sony Pictures // R // November 18, 2008 // Region Free
List Price: $28.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted November 15, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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If you
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don't think much of Revolver, writer/director Guy Ritchie sympathizes. You just don't get it. That doesn't make you less of a person; you just made the mistake of sitting down to watch a film inaccessible to those who aren't prepared to be psychologically challenged. Judging by the lack of stars in the sidebar of this review, I guess that means I'm not up to the challenge either.

Sandwiched in solitary confinement in between a chess grandmaster and a world-class con artist, Jake Green (Jason Statham) looked on for seven years as the men in the cells flanking his worked out an unbeatable formula to exploit the greed and weaknesses of those around them. Once Green steps out a free man, he immediately puts this formula to work and amasses an enormous fortune. The money's great, sure, but he's much more interested in tearing off a chunk of the empire of Macha (Ray Liotta), the sleazy, leathery crime boss who'd put him in the clink. After being humiliated by Green -- who's nowhere close to being finished yet -- Macha retaliates by sending out a couple of his best hitmen to gun him down.

Green's snatched from the path of hails of gunfire, and Avi (Outkast's Andre Benjamin) and Zach (Vincent Pastore) are willing to keep him out of harm's way so long as he consents to two conditions. One, Green has to fork over every last nickel and dime he has. Two, he has to follow their orders without question. 'Course, he's not expecting to be alive all that long anyway -- several doctors confirm that he's suffering a
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rare blood disease, and he'll keel over in just a few days -- but I guess Green plans on sticking around as long as he can, so he grudgingly goes along with it. Avi and Zach are chasing their own agenda too, sparking a devastatingly brutal war between Macha and a rival gangster (Tom Wu) and collecting fistfuls of cash in between.

That's what happens, but what is Revolver about? Hell if I know. I mean, the driving force of the plot is that Green believes he's a few inches from an inevitable death, so instead of living it up for his last few days in this mortal coil, he gives away all his money and cowers behind a chess player and a dumpy mobster type...? I don't really follow a whole hell of a lot of the last twenty minutes and change, but it all boils down to the same psychological bullshit peppered throughout the rest of the movie, and Ritchie uses this as a lazy excuse to explain away anything that doesn't altogether make sense. One of the movie's biggest "reveals" is telegraphed pretty close to word one, although I'll admit to being caught off-guard by some of the psychologically-based twists, mostly because they're fucking stupid.

This is Ritchie's stab at a more serious movie, so the razor-sharp wit and black comedy from his earlier movies are missing in action. Very little of the violence makes an impact, not that there's all that much of it to begin with. Ritchie's stabs at stylization are distractingly obnoxious: a siege near the climax is weighed down by a barrage of stilted zooms and pans, Liotta spends a big chunk of the movie wearing nothing but a thong in
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an oversized tanning booth bathing everything in a fluorescent blue, and another shootout settles into cel-shaded CG animation for reasons I don't really follow even after having it expressly explained to me twice. Casting the wooden, unconvincing Andre 3000 in a fairly pivotal role is a misstep, and Ray Liotta somehow completely forgot how to act somewhere around 2005, I guess. The script rambles, recycling some of the same flashbacks and clich├ęd chunks of philosophical bullshit again and again. Really, Mark Strong's turn as a stuttering assassin is the only thing about Revolver that I liked at all.

Some movies are almost impenetrable at a first glance but reveal more and more with each viewing: Donnie Darko and Mullholland Dr. are two that instantly spring to mind. Those are films that reward viewers who explore them time and again; Revolver, though...? I suppose I'll never find out since the movie's much too tedious and self-important for me to consider suffering through it again. A second viewing may leave me with a better appreciation for what Ritchie is trying to say, but after listening to his audio commentary, I'm not left with the impression I'll agree with him or even care to find out. Madonna's pretentiousness and pseudo-intellectual bullshit had clearly bled into her then-husband's work, and the result is on the brink of being unwatchable. Skip It.


Video
Revolver is fairly ordinary
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for a recent catalog title on Blu-ray. The movie looks good in high definition, sure, but there's nothing particularly dazzling about it. Detail and clarity are both reasonably strong, colors alternate between being fairly timid and heavily skewed towards one hue or another, and weak black levels tend to leave contrast looking rather flat. I didn't notice any glaring flaws in the source or the authoring work on this Blu-ray disc, and the faint trace of film grain appears to be reproduced faithfully enough. I'm struggling to find much more to say than Revolver looks pretty solid...unremarkable but still a quality effort.

Revolver is presented on Blu-ray at its theatrical aspect ratio of 2.39:1 and has been encoded with AVC.


Audio
Revolver's 24-bit Dolby TrueHD soundtrack screams to life during the hyperaggressive shootouts: sprays of gunfire fill every speaker with each shot punctuated by a thick, punchy kick from the subwoofer. Other than that, though, the sound design is surprisingly meek. Some light atmosphere creeps into the surrounds along with reinforcement of the score, but the rear channels rarely draw attention to themselves outside of the handful of shootouts. Bass response is solid, with effects like slammed doors and a wall being ripped down bolstered by a meaty low-frequency boom. Revolver's dialogue is generally rendered cleanly and clearly, although Statham's narration is strangely thin and hollow. I suppose that's intentional, but I don't really care enough to venture a guess why. This isn't an especially immersive or remarkable mix for the overwhelming majority of the movie's runtime, but Revolver's lossless audio sounds fine.

A French TrueHD track has also been included alongside subtitle streams in English (traditional and SDH) and French.


Extras
Revolver carries over the same slate of extras from the DVD release earlier this year, although it does lose a photo gallery. All of the extras related to the movie itself are limited to standard definition and non-anamorphic widescreen only.

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  • Audio Commentary: There are quite a few other people in the room, but the only two perched in front of microphones are writer/director Guy Ritchie and editor James Herbert. Ritchie is instantly likeable and personable here, but as much he snickers about not wanting to sound pretentious, so much of this track is overwhelmed by comments about the necessity of the ego to transcend the ego, constructs to contain one's false self, the cel-shaded animation reflecting the potentially false veneer of what we perceive as reality, humiliation as the reduction of the investment of self... There are some intriguing comments scattered around in here, such as Revolver's astonishingly low budget and how a nerd-killer is the most dangerous flavor of assassin of all, but too much of it's weighed down by rambling pseudo-intellectualism. Even then, the conversation slows down a good bit in the movie's second half. Not recommended.

  • The Concept (16 min.): Ritchie is by far the dominant presence in the disc's audio commentary, but this featurette gives Herbert a chance to speak more about the editing of the movie. Among the topics are a more experimental approach that enabled the two of them to stumble upon some clever ideas, piecing together flashbacks and frantic sequences from many different takes and disparate snippets of footage, and paring down Revolver from its initial two and a half hour assembly. Like the commentary, this featurette was recorded after Revolver had been savaged by critics. Ritchie notes that he watched the movie again to see if there was anything he'd want to change, and he's perfectly content with the finished product. Hmm.
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  • The Game: The Making of Revolver (24 min.): This reasonably comprehensive making-of piece briefly touches on Revolver's psychological underpinnings before casting its net wider, delving into the characters, how similar a chess game and a con really are, Ritchie's visual and directorial styles, the playful tone on the set, and what the film's violence is meant to represent.

  • Revolver: Making the Music (14 min.): The last of the disc's featurettes takes a look at Revolver's score, a deliberately rough set of music recorded with bass, drums, and an orchestra. "Making the Music" alternates between speaking about the mindset behind the score in general as well as tackling a few specific sequences in-depth, noting the difficulty landing on just the right tempo, Ritchie's increased emphasis on a score here compared to his other movies, and how his initial stabs at intermingling classical music really didn't work.
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  • Deleted Scenes (24 min.): There are seven deleted and extended scenes here, including an alternate introduction, a longer pass at the rooftop round of golf, a more clumsily edited assassination, and alternate scenes that would've bookended Revolver. The alternate ending is a particular disappointment, lobbing out another barrage of quotes, this time over a set of photos of gunned-down mobsters. Guy Ritchie briefly discusses several of these scenes in video introductions and commentaries, mostly to note that he trimmed them down fearing he was giving too much of "the game" away.

  • Outtakes (4 min.): Revolver's gag reel is pretty standard stuff: blown lines, clowning around on set, fake, squishy fart sounds...
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  • Music Trailer A trailer for Revolver plays without any overlaid text, voiceovers, or dialogue -- just the visuals and music.

  • Trailers (HD): The only high definition extras are the forced trailers that open the disc. If, for whatever reason, you want to sit through them a second time, they can also be viewed individually with the rest of Revolver's extras.

The Final Word
See? This is what happens when you marry Madonna: you start spewing out that same rancid sort of self-indulgent, pseudo-psychological bullshit. Revolver pins its incoherence on the false sense of fucking whatever inside all of our psyches, and if you don't follow, you just don't get it. Whatever. Guy Ritchie claims it can take a few viewings to fully appreciate Revolver, but I'm apparently doomed to live on the outside, having no interest whatsoever in suffering through this near-total disaster again. Skip It.
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