Everybody hates failure and, in Guy Ritchie’s case, his filmic disaster that was Swept Away (2002) seemed like enough for him to learn to avoid it. Slated by the critics and condemned to a straight-to-video release in the UK, Ritchie needed a pick-me-up. Returning to the crime genre he used to make a name for himself with Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) and Snatch (2000) must have appeared the easy option for Ritchie and his wounded pride.
…the only missing ingredient was Matthew Vaughn’s input as producer
To his credit, Ritchie has gone for broke by bringing back old favourite Jason Statham into the starring role, casting well-known faces Ray Liotta and Andre Benjamin of Outkast and allegedly ditching Madonna’s scenes as a gangland boss. Upset the wife? Brave man. The only missing ingredient was Matthew Vaughn’s input as producer — he had always worked with Ritchie until his own well-received 2004 directorial debut of, wait for it, gangland thriller Layer Cake. Surely Guy could make it on his own and put Vaughn’s best efforts to shame?
Revolver starts well as hotshot gambler Jake Green (Statham) challenges corrupt casino boss Dorothy Macha (Liotta) to a game of chance, beats him and makes one dangerous enemy. Green is forced to pay two loan sharks for protection from Macha and begins a life of wondering where it all went wrong. Along the way the viewer is treated to endless flashbacks, flash forwards, quotes from Julius Caesar and the rules of chess, repeating of said quotes by characters in the film and a Statham narration that mixes it all into a confusing mess of a story like a book in a blender. This is all fine as an intriguingly-tangled Ritchie web, but he forgot to explain himself among 115 minutes full of dull dialogue and posturing that seem to be inching nearer to an explanation only to end half-baked.
…there is a typically kinetic shoot-out and a (meaningless) nod to Quentin Tarantino’s anime section
Sure, Ritchie can direct with aplomb: he has an eye for dynamic camera angles, stylish long takes and slow-mos Michael Bay would drool over. There is a typically kinetic shoot-out and a (meaningless) nod to Quentin Tarantino’s anime section in Kill Bill: Volume One (2003). Yet while he thinks it all adds up to some dazzling conclusion that will leave the audience stunned with admiration like The Usual Suspects (Bryan Singer, 1995) or Fight Club (David Fincher, 1999), he has merely earnt a smack in the face from every single person who watches this convoluted, pretentious and over-blown nothing of a film.
Revolver really could be the headstone for Ritchie’s career rather than the hit he so badly needed: an example of what happens when a writer spends three-years on a script thinking they are making it better only to find it has alienated everybody but themselves. The only thing that made Swept Away bearable was the DVD commentary with which Ritchie could blame the local production company for its faults. Watching Revolver at the cinema denies him the luxury of explaining away this one. Be thankful: I doubt even he knows how to put into words what he was thinking. He certainly could not film it.