I hasten to say that I never liked Guy Ritchie anyway. Not Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, not Snatch. Swept Away I didn’t see, which I gather was for the best. On the other hand it doesn’t much matter, since even the legion of Ritchie fans hooked on the kineticism and casual violence of Snatch will surely turn on the man after seeing Revolver. He has added an insufferable pretense to his usual smugness.
After watching Snatch, I remember thinking that Ritchie has obvious talent but needs very badly to chill out; there’s no need to throw everything at the screen in every single scene. He seems to have done that, since Revolver is comparatively sedate, the quick-cuts and camera tricks replaced with hideous sets and a garish color scheme. (The question of which is preferable I leave to you.) The other thing that’s new is that instead of the haphazard, convoluted plotting Ritchie the screenwriter previously exhibited, the new Ritchie refuses to plot altogether. How’s that for reform?
“Incomprehensible” seems irrelevant as a criticism here. Revolver was created with incomprehensible in mind. There’s a gangster story in here somewhere, with a vengeful casino owner played by Ray Liotta, a hero who pisses him off (Jason Statham), and a pair of mysterious loan sharks (Andre Benjamin and Vincent Pastore) who agree to keep him alive at a high price. That much seems clear, but what actually happens and why is a total mystery. We get the vague sense that it’s supposed to be clever, and maybe supernatural — the loan sharks may or may not be able to predict the future. One way of putting it is that the narrative is impossible to follow, but I’m not sure it was made to be followed. Maybe it’s supposed to overwhelm us with its hipness.
A possible cause of this, I take it, might be Ritchie’s desire to make a propaganda film for Kaballah, the mystical brand of Judaism recently taken up by his wife Madonna. I only found this interpretation afterward, when reading up on the film, though I did at the time find it odd that Ritchie chose to insert a montage of real-life psychologists and gurus (including Deepak Chopra!) discussing the ego and the id between the final scene and the end credits. There’s enough gobbledygook in here that I believe it, though I’m ultimately not quite sure what Revolver was trying to tell me. If it’s brainwashing, it’s not very effective. My beastly ego is my enemy? Sure, whatever.
The film’s sheer weirdness, combined with the quixotic hope that the plot might actually come together, managed to hold my attention, more or less. In retrospect, that makes me angrier. Maybe I need to become braver about walk-outs. Revolver merits one, though it’s smarter not to go in the first place.