Guy Ritchie shoots a blank with "Revolver," which replays the low-life criminal shtick from his first two features with an ill-advised overlay of pretension. The action, attitude and wise-guy talk all feel moldy this time around, which does not bode well for U.S. release, although helmer's following and rep of producer Luc Besson will probably spark better B.O. in certain international territories.

Guy Ritchie shoots a blank with “Revolver,” which replays the low-life criminal shtick from his first two features with an ill-advised overlay of pretension. The action, attitude and wise-guy talk all feel moldy this time around, which does not bode well for U.S. release, although helmer’s following and rep of producer Luc Besson will probably spark better B.O. in certain international territories.

It’s usually not a good thing when an all-style, no-content director like Ritchie decides to get self-serious. Alas, that’s what happens here, as he inundates the viewer at the outset with aphorisms on war and the art of the con, only to repeat them again and again over the course of two hours.

It all has to do with the con of all cons, of which Jake Green (Ritchie stalwart Jason Statham) believes he’s now capable after having spent seven years in prison situated between cells occupied by a chess master and a top con artist. First stop after he’s released is the casino of the confoundingly named Dorothy Macha (Ray Liotta), who wronged Jake before and whom Jake now humiliates at the tables.

Macha soon orders a hit on Jake, who in turn is taken under the wing of the mysterious team of Zack (Vincent Pastore), an old-style Mafia type, and Avi (Andre Benjamin), whose smooth doubletalk often threatens Jake but mostly leaves him thoroughly in the dark about what’s going on.

He’s not alone. Despite plenty of narration from Jake and gobs of flashy flashbacks, the only thing that’s clear through is that Ritchie won’t be doing much clarifying before the final cards are played. The big hint comes via a quote attributed to Julius Caesar to the effect that your enemy will always hide in the last place that you would ever look.

Well, OK, presumably that would be in your own house, or, since Jake doesn’t seem to have a house, maybe in his own head. Assuming that’s a good guess, it would mean that he’s his own worst enemy, which is a level of profundity Ritchie has a great deal of difficulty communicating in an entertainingly edifying way — especially since there are quite a few guys with guns who could do damage to Jake before he gets a chance to harm himself.

The more convoluted and philosophical things get, the more tedious “Revolver” becomes. There is intermittent amusement provided by a surefire hit man’s emotional crisis, torture by nail in the hand, the hit man overcoming his crisis in spectacular fashion, Liotta hyperventilating in Speedos, and Francesca Annis doing a no-doubt unwitting impersonation of Edna Mode from “The Incredibles” as the front person for uber-boss Mr. Gold (wasn’t the use of colors for gangsters’ last names retired by Quentin Tarantino a long time ago?).

The setting is a deliberately fudged mid-Atlantic gambling-and-crime zone that looks like a cross between London and Las Vegas. (Much of the pic was shot on the Isle of Man.) The grandiose yet tacky production design, rather grubby lensing and even Strathan’s stringy long hair and beard don’t help make the proceedings cool enough to overlook the silliness of the whole enterprise. Ritchie’s fancy cutting and storytelling techniques still evince a degree of cheeky flair, but they’re in dire need of being applied to fresher material.

Revolver

U.K.-France

Production

A Luc Besson presentation of a EuropaCorp production in co-production with Revolver Pictures Ltd. in association with Toff Guy Films and Isle of Man Film with the participation of Canal+ and of TPS Star. (International sales: EuropaCorp, Paris.) Produced by Besson, Virginie Silla. Executive producer, Steve Christian. Co-producer, Pierre Spengler. Directed, written by Guy Ritchie. Adapted by Luc Besson.

Crew

Camera (color, Technovision widescreen), Tim Maurice Jones; editors, James Herbert, Ian Differ, Romesh Aluwihare; music, Nathaniel Mechaly; production designer, Eve Stewart; art directors, Sam Stokes, Ed Walsh; set decorator, Anna Lynch-Robinson; costume designer, Verity Hawkes; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS), Simon Hayes; sound editors, Frederic Dubois, Francois Fayard; sound mixer, Vincent Arnardi; line producer, Steve Clark-Hall; assistant director, Max Keene; stunt coordinator, Paul Herbert; casting, Mindy Marin, Gail Stevens. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Gala), Sept. 10, 2005. Running time: 115 MIN.

With

Jake Green - Jason Statham Dorothy Macha - Ray Liotta Zack - Vincent Pastore Avi - Andre Benjamin French Paul - Terrence Maynard Billy - Andrew Howard Sorter - Mark Strong Lily Walker - Francesca Annis Doreen - Anjela Lauren Smith Rachel - Elana Binysh

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