English director Guy Ritchie is known best for “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” and “Snatch” amongst longtime fans and the “Sherlock Holmes” films were able to help Ritchie stay afloat in the mainstream. While “RocknRolla” was considered a return to form for a guy who kept the crime thriller genre extremely close to his heart, his 2005 film “Revolver” is easily his most unique project to date. “Revolver” is known for having a mixed reputation; a 6.3 on IMDb, a 25/100 on Metacritic, and a dismal 16% rating on RottenTomatoes with the label of “incoherent” carved into it and cursed as such. But if you’re able to accept a film that purposely doesn’t connect all the dots while leaving much to the viewer’s interpretation and are able to trudge through and persevere over a truckload of patience and letting your mind wander, then “Revolver” is just smart enough to be considered extraordinary.
Jake Green (a long-haired and handlebar mustache clad Jason Statham) has just finished a seven-year jail sentence and is now free. The man who put him there, Dorothy Macha (a mostly naked Ray Liotta) has kept busy and is about to become the next big casino boss of the city. After a bold confrontation between the two, Jake walks away with a large chunk of Macha’s money but not before blacking out and falling down a flight of stairs. Jake is shot at once he returns home and a few of his friends die in the crossfire. Two men named Avi (Andre Benjamin) and Zach (Vincent Pastore) save Jake and inform him that he suffers from a rare blood disease that’ll kill him within three days. If Jake wants to survive, he has to work with Avi and Zach, do whatever they say, and give away every penny he’s ever earned without question. Feeling his life slip away with every dollar he gives away with the bitter taste of revenge still caked on his lips, Jake struggles with the thought that he’s being conned but pursuing his gut instinct may cost him his life.
There are two very different versions of this film. The US version currently available on DVD and Blu-ray is a completely different cut compared to the UK version. Scenes are completely rearranged and edited in entirely opposing ways, but the biggest difference is the ending. The finale is essentially what makes the film and the ending to the UK version is far superior. The US version has actual professors dissecting the human ego playing over the credits that’s really interesting and helps put the film in a semi-satisfying perspective, but the ending to the UK version is more exclusive. The film just ends with no credits as this drifting piano tune plays to a black screen during its final moments while the final confrontation between Jake and Macha is completely cut from the US version of the film.
“Revolver” is a story about how much someone’s life can be controlled by their ego. Is your ego really who you are or is it just who you think you are? It’s been there for so long that it’s difficult to distinguish the difference. That ego is obviously very self-absorbed, so greed becomes a factor in a very short amount of time. The Jake Green and Dorothy Macha characters are very similar, if not exactly the same. The difference is one of them gives into their ego while the other triumphs over it. The message the film portrays may vary depending on who you ask, but think of it like this; “Revolver” is a journey that isn’t about getting rid of your ego. It’s about learning how to control it. The Zach and Avi characters are a bit more complicated. Do they illustrate generosity? Are they just an extension of Jake’s strengths; chess and cons? The US cut of the film removes a few important Avi lines near the end of the film. One of them being, “We didn’t do this because we like you. We did this because…we are you.” The “Fight Club” theory does seem to be the most logical, especially since Zach and Avi know everything about Jake and being in solitary confinement for seven years probably wasn’t the best thing for Jake’s brain.
The film is visually appealing like most of Richie’s films. The colors are very rich and absorbing with extreme use of blue, red, and green. The green screen effects seem a little over polished at times as you can tell that no one is ever actually driving on actual roads and the glow of city life, whether it’s during the day or night, is overly flashy. It’s almost like it’s purposely too bright to make it appear dream-like. Actual scenery is very intricate and detailed, especially during Macha’s meeting with Lily Walker (Francesca Annis). There’s also this intense car accident with Jason Statham that happens in an instant, but then plays backwards and in slow-motion. And more memorable one-liners than you can try to remember in one viewing (“Shine on you crazy diamond because we’re all just monkeys wrapped in suits begging for the approval of others.”). The film utilizes animation in a really weird way. It’s like it’s used to illustrate extreme anger for certain characters (Zach, Macha, and Lord John). Either way, it’s only used in the middle of the film for a short period of time.
This is the only film that Jason Statham has hair, so it should deserve at least a little credit for that. All joking aside, it’s Statham’s best performance. His lack of emotion is explained a bit more thoroughly in the UK cut as prison and the loss of his sister-in-law have left Jake completely numb. It’s the elevator sequence that makes Statham’s performance stand out. Not only is he arguing with himself, but he shows this raw passion that he almost never has the chance to show in anything else that he does. Ray Liotta is incredible, as well. For the most part, Liotta portrays the foul-mouthed gangster you’ve come to expect from him. But at his core, Macha is a broken, pitiful man who has this undying desire to be feared and respected. Macha breaks down in a few key scenes in the film and Liotta just knocks it out of the park with this fantastic sense of emotional range.
Mark Strong is perhaps the most badass he’s ever been in any role as Sorter. Sorter is an assassin, who has a reputation for never missing, but his feelings suddenly get in the way and he starts missing when Macha puts a hit out on Jake. Sorter is a quiet man who stutters and is always adjusting his glasses, but he’s featured in more than one superb action sequence in the film.
Hunting down the UK cut of the film and seeing both versions before passing final judgement on the film is practically required. Other things that were cut from the US release include Jake’s history with Macha and the three Eddies (you see Paul (Terence Maynard) torture them but you have no idea who they are). The elevator sequence is also closer to the 1:15:00 mark rather than at the end of the film. Certain lines are cut that bring entire scenes together. The poker table scene at the beginning of the film is slightly longer. The different versions of the film are almost like different experiences entirely.
“Revolver” is not a perfect film by any stretch of the imagination, but it also deserves a bit more credit than it’s received. People are always complaining that Hollywood never takes any risks and that there’s no originality breaking through. Guy Ritchie gave us something different years ago and everyone hated it; didn’t even give him any credit for trying. “Revolver” is ambitious as hell and has a concept that is rather genius. Its flaws lie within how that’s presented and executed. It’s like the film can’t decide whether to lay everything out in front of the viewer or to pull the rug out from underneath them and let them fend for themselves. What it does allow you to do is piece more and more together with every viewing.
There are at least two noteworthy performances here that everyone has just shrugged off over time with a beautiful score that is absolute perfection. “Revolver” taps into a struggle everyone faces that only a small few have been able to relate to. It’s not that this film isn’t a mess, but that mountain of a mess is on top of a shiny gem of a film that is worthy of being admired.
Image sources: toutlecine.com, moviedevil.com, outnow.ch, aceshowbiz.com