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Total Film

November 2005

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Director Guy Ritchie
Starring Jason Statham, Ray Liotta, André Benjamin, Vincent Pastore
Cert 15

Rating **

Fresh out of the clink, gambler Jake Green (Jason Statham) pays a visit to effete casino boss Macha (Ray Liotta), humiliating him at his own table. Bad move, wiseguy. As all hell breaks loose, and with only creepy henchmen Avi (André Benjamin) and Zach (Vincent Pastore) shielding him from certain death, Jake struggles to figure out who’s conning who.

There must be a very large part of Guy Ritchie that was hoping, maybe even expecting, that Revolver was going to be his masterpiece. (It even shares its title with one of The Beatles’ finest albums. Deliberate? Who knows?) A rich, dense, satisfyingly complex entry in the low-life lexicon... A worthy and – say it – cerebral successor to prove to his razor-wielding detractors that he wasn’t a lock, stock and two-movie pony... A Guy Ritchie film that would wipe the slate clean of Swept Away’s debris...

For a brief while, you’ll find yourself entranced by Revolver’s dazzling sleight of hand, or, at the very least, entertained by its flashy array of sharp-suited crims and ice-veined assassins, neon-bright casinos and spunky ladies, big-barrelled guns and even more overblown body count.

But the deeper you dive into Revolver’s gangster underworld, the more you realise that Ritchie’s con-within-a-con-within-a-con storyline is an extremely shaky house of cards, a confusing and confused amalgam of twisty coincidence, religious subtext and a gruff, repetitive Jason Statham voiceover that borders on the comical.

In a genre already shackled by its own limitations (see checklist above), Revolver feels like the end result of watching Casino, Pulp Fiction, The Usual Suspects and Fight Club on a continuous loop. There’s nothing wrong with magpie-ing your way through a few classics (QT’s made a career of it), but if you don’t have the brainy storytelling heft to back it up, you’ll leave yourself dangerously exposed.

Shame really, because Ritchie’s a natural born moviemaker, with a stylist’s eye for unexpected camera shots and cheeky set-pieces and an effortless ability to excavate a gag from even the most harrowing occasions (forget his pre-release chatter that the film is “not funny”; for once, he was just being modest). And there is plenty to enjoy here, from Ray Liotta’s bronzed fruit-loop to some punchy dialogue and bursts of gratifyingly intense violence.

Still, admirable though Ritchie’s intentions were for thinking outside his customary box, Revolver is destined for curio status. Ritchie undoubtedly has more good films in him. But asking the audience to perpetually second-guess your motives, even after the final cards are played, is the biggest con of all.

Guy Ritchie's convoluted gambler-con epic is bursting with grand pretensions but it's simply another case of diminishing returns.

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