Guy Ritchie is not the sort of director who stays with an established formula for success. Instead of copying the characters and themes from one film wholesale and pasting them into another, he takes his ideas as a foundation upon which to build something new. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels established his knack for gritty English crime drama, witty dialog and introduced the world to Jason Statham and Vinnie Jones. His next film, Snatch, took the notion of his first and spun in a few extra plots and one of Brad Pitt’s most hilarious and memorable performances. Unfortunately, after that he tried to do his wife Madonna a good turn by putting her in a romantic comedy (Swept Away), and when that flopped he rushed back to his baseline material. In doing so, however, he went about a hundred miles too far, and the result is Revolver. It stars Jason Statham, Ray Liotta, Vincent Pastore, André Benjamin, Mark Strong and Francesca Annis.
During his seven-year stint in jail, con artist Jake Green (Jason Statham, rocking manly stubble and rather long hair) has developed “The Formula,” a strategy for coming out on top in any game or situation, thanks to being incarcerated between a brilliant chess master and a fellow con man. They break out without him after planning to leave as a trio, and when Jake emerges he uses The Formula to earn some cash at casinos. His winning streak brings him attention from the wrong sort of people. It’s at about this point the movie starts to go berserk.
While Snatch was complex, with various plots ranging from underground boxing to jewel heists to caravan-focused confidence games, Revolver makes that previous film look like a completely linear and uncomplicated story. Between the changes in time and perspective, repeated obfuscatory quotes on philosophy and strategy, and veiled references to Kabbalah and numerology, the film follows a twisted and inscrutable path that would shame the likes of Daedalus’ Labyrinth. It turns around on itself more than once, like a dog chasing its tail or a suspect attempting to elude the authorities in a high-speed chase through a crowded city. To me, this means you are either going to love this movie, or it’s going to piss you off.
Like Donnie Darko and Memento, the film dares us to try and keep up. With characters portrayed with unapologetic gravity, plot lines more tangled than a fresh batch of spaghetti, and concepts that might seem completely alien to the average viewer, Revolver makes no promises and adheres to no cinematic traffic laws – you best buckle up and hold on tight. It’s the kind of ride that some people live for and causes others to lose their lunch. It’s a polarizing film, as it will either spur you to watch it again to try and catch everything you missed, or make you want to fling the disc out of the window in sheer frustration. The film is available on Netflix’s instant queue, so if you do watch it and it does piss you off, I recommend closing the browser rather than using your computer as a projectile.
For the record, I think Revolver veers into pretentiousness on a couple occasions and might be trying too hard to be included with the likes of the brilliant Donnie Darko and the unforgettable Memento. On the other hand, the characters inhabit their roles so compellingly and the direction is done with such aplomb that it’s difficult for me to get really angry at the film. It’s like being handed a refreshing beverage in a container that’s been frozen, glued, or otherwise sealed in a way that’s not immediately obvious: the contents are delicious and you’re bound to enjoy it, but you have to be willing to endure some frustration at the hands of someone who thinks they’re extremely clever. You might think they are and roll with it, or you might think they’re a jerkass and toss the drink back in their face.
Your mileage may vary.
Josh Loomis can’t always make it to the local megaplex, and thus must turn to alternative forms of cinematic entertainment. There might not be overpriced soda pop & over-buttered popcorn, and it’s unclear if this week’s film came in the mail or was delivered via the dark & mysterious tubes of the Internet. Only one thing is certain… IT CAME FROM NETFLIX.