Ah, who could ever forget the 1993 thriller Body of Evidence, in which Madonna plays a woman on trial for having actually boffed someone to death?
What’s that? You say you did forget it? Well, you’re a luckier Gus than I, I guess: The trauma remains etched in my brain, swimming to the surface at night when my guard is down.
Well, I suppose if anybody has a sexual mojo powerful enough to commit coito-homicide, it’s Madonna. And, if you’re looking to add to the body of evidence, consider the latest film from Madonna’s hubby, writer-director Guy Ritchie, who proved himself a snazzy, hyperkinetic stylist in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) and Snatch (2000). Revolver, which is in the same mode, is so vastly more idiotic there is only one reasonable explanation: She fucked his brains out … literally.
The film opens with his trademark glossy style: rich, saturated colors, quick cutting, flash all the way. A mobster named Jake Green (Ritchie regular Jason Statham) tells us in voiceover about getting out of prison, where he has spent seven years in a solitary cell, sandwiched between a chess master and a brilliant con man. From them, he has learned the advanced principles of strategy, each of which will be repeated at least a half-dozen times in the next hour and 50 minutes.
Or maybe he hasn’t just been released. Sometimes we’re given the one impression, and other times there are references to how he’s built himself up in the crime world in the time since his release. Whatever. Against the advice of his brother, he decides the first thing he should do is get back at crooked casino owner Macha (Ray Liotta), who apparently had something to do with landing him in jail. (There are going to be a lot of “seems” and “apparentlys” in this review, because it’s that kind of movie.)
He wins a bunch of money from Macha. On his way out of the gaming room, a mysterious stranger (Vincent Pastore, best known as Big Pussy on The Sopranos) hands him a card that says, “Take the elevator,” but Jake, who suffers from claustrophobia, heads for the stairwell and promptly collapses. While he’s waiting for the results of medical tests, his gang is wiped out, and he’s rescued by the mysterious stranger (whose name turns out to be Zach) and the equally mysterious Avi (André Benjamin). Apparently these two loan sharks have somehow gotten his lab results before his doctor, and the tests say Jake has been contaminated with some sort of lethal toxin and has maybe three days to live.
At this point, Revolver seems to be another knockoff of the 1950 noir classic D.O.A. — just like Statham’s 2006 release Crank. But Jake doesn’t react in the understandable manner of Edmond O’Brien’s character. He doesn’t try to find out who poisoned him. In fact, even though Zach and Avi are the most obvious suspects, Jake enters into a deal with them — a deal that makes even less sense than what’s transpired so far: “Give us all your money and slavishly follow our orders and do our dirty work and ask no questions, and we’ll keep you alive for your last three days.” Jake, in the interminably intrusive voiceover, senses he’s the victim of a con, but agrees anyway.
After a while, it begins to appear that this isn’t really a gangster film so much as a phantasmagoria in the manner of, say, Inland Empire or Slipstream or The Nines. Could it be a dream? Could Jake be a character in a videogame? Is he a pawn on a chess board?
Or has Jake gone crazy in solitary and only imagined he’s been released?
I love puzzle films as much as the next person. In fact, much more than most next persons. Generally, though, as in Memento and Mulholland Dr., they must display a vestige of internal sense. Even some of those that don’t make sense justify themselves by being enough goofy fun as they go along (Slipstream).
But Revolver squelches any potential for fun by weighing itself down with thick layers of seriositude and deep meaning. Ritchie seems to think he has created something really profound. If I understand the ending properly, what that amounts to is an infomercial for one or another school of New Age-y psychology/philosophy.
You heard me right: This turns out to be a touchy-feely ultraviolent gangster flick. Come over here and give Scarface a hug, you big gruff pussycat.