"Ritchie's Revolver fails by trying to be too clever for its own good and eventually disappears up its own pretentious rear end."

Poor old Guy Ritchie. He showed so much promise with his first films, Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, with their hilarious depiction of the London underworld, full of geezas, pikies and Vinnie Jones. Then it all went a bit pear-shaped, really. He made Swept Away with Madge (we don't talk about that). Then his producer Matthew Vaughn came out with Layer Cake, which, er, wasn't multi-layered at all.

Whereas with Layer Cake, Vaughn made the mistake of thinking that a British gangster film without an interesting premise (unlike Sexy Beast), or its tongue firmly in its cheek, could work, Ritchie's Revolver fails by trying to be too clever for its own good and eventually disappears up its own pretentious rear end.

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Jake Green (a bearded Jason Statham) has just been released from a seven-year stint in the slammer, after taking the wrap for casino boss/gangster, the amusingly named Dorothy Macha (Ray Liotta, prancing around in a speedo and very little else). However, he's armed, not only with a burning passion for revenge, but also with a secret formula for winning any game that he learnt off a couple of mysterious cons. When he humiliates Macha in his own casino, Green becomes a marked man.

At this point the film veers away from any notion of coherence and soon the story morphs from yer run-of-the-mill Ritchie gangster black comedy into some existential tosh about the enemy within. Inexplicably, Green is diagnosed with a terminal disease and, as a result, joins a couple of loan sharks (Vincent Pastore and Outkast's Andre Benjamin) in their daily, finger-breaking routine. Eventually, they start making moves to bring down Macha, who is in the middle of a drugs deal with elusive kingpin Sam Gold.

It's all supposed to be very clever and lots of chess is played while various purportedly intellectual, cunning phrases get bandied about in oft-repeated inter-titles, such as, "The only way to get smarter is to play a smarter opponent." Reflections on the nature of the beast, the monster of the id and so forth, ensue. Only they don't make the slightest bit of sense. I challenge Mr Ritchie to actually explain his film. I bet he can't. It's nonsensical dribble.

There are brief flashes of Guy the Lad. Characters like the stuttering hitman are reminiscent of the daft cast that populated the underworld of Lock, Stock, while the gangster who accidentally shoots himself whilst climbing over a wall recalls Vinnie Jones's death in Snatch. Otherwise it's yet another turn for the worse and an interminably long one at that.

Ritchie seems to subscribe to the Brian de Palma school of homage, that of blatantly ripping off other directors outright rather than with subtle nods. Anyone who has seen The Usual Suspects will be reeling with horror at Ritchie's plagiarism of the classic ending line for his finale - I won't repeat the same mistake by copying it here. Fight Club also appears to have been pilfered from liberally, in the scenes in which Green confronts his inner self and enemy. In retrospect, it's quite surprising Ritchie didn't go the whole hog and have Green shoot himself in the throat.

In fact, the best way to describe Revolver is to imagine both these masterful films put in a blender with an ostentatious, pseudo-philosophical turd, the kind that has a punchable mug, if turds actually have faces. And, man, does the mixture stink!

Reviewed on: 22 Sep 2005
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An ex-con is out for vegeance on the man he believes caused his downfall.
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Anton Bitel ****

Director: Guy Ritchie

Writer: Guy Ritchie

Starring: Jason Statham, Ray Liotta, Andre Benjamin, Vincent Pastore, Mark Strong, Anjela Lauren Smith, Serge Soric, Warren Clark

Year: 2005

Runtime: 115 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: France/UK


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