101 Love or Hate Films? “Revolver”


I was flicking through IMDB the other day.  I had just watched the very good “Sherlock Holmes”, and started flicking through Guy Richie’s other films.  I remember thinking “Revolver” was a turkey, but the score of 6.2 from 29k voters  seemed a bit high, so I decided to check out the reviews.  To my absolute surprise, the reviews were excellent. So I figured I would give it another look.

Now remember what Mark Kermode said about Revolver;

“Watching Guy Ritchie’s Revolver will make you want to pour petrol on your head and set fire to yourself. It’s not that Revolver is just bad – it’s that it’s so mind-buggeringly, intestine-stranglingly hideous that you actually start to worry about the mental state of its creator. Honestly, if I was a doctor and somebody walked into my surgery and pitched Revolver, I would reach for the medicine cabinet forthwith.”

Anyhow, I wont be quite so rude or so funny I suspect, but I hope to be a little fairer than Mr Kermode.

The film involves Jason Statham coming out of prison after a 7 years stretch in solitary confinement. He claims to have learned a secret involving a simple set of rules, that should produce a favourable outcome to any game. There is no definition to the word game, but it doesn’t matter.

We are led to presume he has been quite successful, but following an episode where he faints on the stairs, an attempt on his life and the introduction of two “friends”, we learn he wants revenge on the man (Ray Liotta) who put him in prison.

The rest of the movie is about him achieving revenge by working out he doesn’t need revenge.

Confused? Lets see if I can help a little.

The two friends who save his life and give his money away turn out to be Jason Statham’s neighbouring cell mates. One claiming to be a master game player, the other a master con artist leading you to believe you are in a game or a con. Statham learns all the secrets by being in the middle cell of these two thinking giants. Well I say they are cell mates, but in actual fact they are not his cell mates at all, but are instead fragments of his deranged mind which you can only assume is what happens after 7 years of solitary confinement.

They tell him that he needs to let go of everything to see the true enemy, and bit by bit they make him give everything away including all his pride and confidence. He gets to a point in his despair that he fractures once and for all and finally finds his true enemy, himself, or rather specifically his ego.

Ray Liotta’s character in comparison starts off wealthy and in control until he takes a job from the kingpin Mr Gold. Bit by bit he finds himself in more and more trouble but as opposed to Statham’s character who finds enlightenment by freeing himself  from his ego, Liottas gets more and more bogged down, blaming Statham for his failure.

Now if you are still confused, then you have a right to be because this is a confusing idea. There is nothing wrong with a confusing idea. The trouble with this film is that having decided on a confusing idea, it is vital you take your audience through the process. In this regard Guy Richie’s film fails miserably.

For a start not enough time is given into establishing the hold the two friends have over Statham. He is told he has only 3 days to live, and the only way he will survive is to hand over his money and do whatever the friends tell him to do. Later however he is told that he has miraculously recovered from the fatal illness but he still continues to work for his friends, even though they continue to give away his money, and continue to behave in a manner he finds unacceptable.

Secondly you have the character of Jake Green (Statham), you have Green’s inner-monologue (Statham), you have the chess player Avi (Benjamin) and you have the con artist Zach (Pastore) all of which are actually Jake Green. He spends the entire movie talking to himself, and yet no-one notices or says anything. And just to add insult to injury in the final conclusion Macha (Liotta), starts having inner-monologue as well.

Thirdly you have a series of bizarre situations that simply could never happen. Green sneaks into Macha’s bedroom and apologizes for taking up his time. If you’re really confronting your ego, you don’t need to do it in your arch-enemy’s bedroom whilst he’s sleeping. And if you do, then I very much doubt your arch enemy is going to let you walk away when he has tried to kill you twice already.

As the final scene begins and all bets are off as to what will happen. We finally see that Liotta will self destruct by committing suicide, whereas Statham walks away with the girl, in this case his young niece. This is symbolic of course showing that if you defeat your real enemy (your ego) then you will succeed in everything. Herein lies another gaping problem. You don’t. If you fight your ego, you don’t suddenly get wealth and happiness, there is always someone ready to take what you have,someone there to take advantage.

So, even though these are major glitches in the plot there is a much much bigger problem. There are many complicated movies around with important themes, some well executed some not so much. The bad ones tend to lose the audience, the good ones drag their audience along. Revolver loses its audience in the first 20 minutes and never bothers to get them back. You don’t feel invested in the movie, which is odd because that is one of the rules it suggests to play the game.

I have heard it said by many people on-line that you need to really think for this movie, and that’s a good thing. I disagree. I like thinking, I do it a lot. I like films that require me to think too, but this film requires you to not only think about what the plot means, but also to un-weave its bad direction. And as for all those people who thought the movie is a classic because they got it first time, think about your own egos.

Surely if there is one clear surefire way that this movie fails it is that its central message is to fight your ego’s but figuring out the message actually boosts it.

It’s not badly shot, it’s not badly lit, it’s not even badly acted. It’s badly written and it’s badly directed. It doesn’t care if you follow the story or not which is why is rightly deserves the criticism of being self-centred and egotistical.

I hate this film for the lack of fulfillment of its potential.

For an alternative opinion, check out what Faraz has to say on the subject

http://usefulthought-s.blogspot.com/2008/05/explanation-of-movie-revolver.html

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~ by eggplantinspace on May 20, 2010.

4 Responses to “101 Love or Hate Films? “Revolver””

  1. Hi there

    Definitely gonna recommend this post to a few friends

  2. Cool web site, I hadn’t come across eggplantinspace.wordpress.com earlier during my searches!
    Carry on the superb work!

  3. I’d love to agree with you. The trouble with this kind of film is that it is destined to be a great suceess or an abject failure.

    Look at David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive, Nicholas Refn’s Fear X, or even Darren Aronofski’s Pi. All of these are genuine surreal art-movies, with the intention to give you the sense of emotion without the narative. In some ways they work, in some they don’t. The experience you have watching them is subjective.

    Guy Richie’s Revolver confuses it’s already complex narative, not to be surreal, but at best because it wants to confuse you even more, and at worst simply because it’s badly written and mis-directed.

    If choosing to make a very complicated film even more complicated is a major directional choice, then doing it so badly that the audience has no idea whats going on is even worse.

    Guy Richie’s real failing here is that we all know he can direct. The scene under the table works well, it’s tightly timed and there is a strong narative that you get wrapped up in. He has style without doubt, even if it does tend to be slow-motion followed by fast-forwards.

    Knowing he is a good director on his day however, what on earth would make him think this is finished? I can forgive “Swept Away” for being Madonna’s egotrip. If that film is anything to go by, then Guy must have been very glad to finally put some trousers on when she left him.

    But this one is definitely Guy’s Turkey. For some reason, he simply didn’t look at the film from an objective perspective, and say “Bladdy ‘ell Boris! This is one f***ed up mess!”

  4. I’m impressed! For the most complicated film in the history of films, that was a very succint description indeed.

    I actually like it, despite the fact that I’ve watched it 3 times and not understood it untill now. I completely agree that it has gaping holes (albeit not necessarilly the ones that you mention) and can therefore only be badly written/directed BUT I do like the idea a lot.

    It’s very nicely shot, there are some very good and some very clever scenes and it has a real sense of style about it.

    It’s like Ritchie tried to make the greatest film of all time but wasn’t quite up to it. Far too many people produce and direct bland, boring and unoriginal tripe and get away with it. With this in mind and for the ambition alone, he should be applauded.

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