No matter how many film and TV gangsters lock and load for Guy Ritchie, this arcane lesson in pop psychology fails miserably to be the mob opera's equivalent of Fight Club.
You can't blame Ritchie for returning to what he does best after almost committing career suicide remaking Swept Away with his missus, Madonna. And, as it begins, Revolver seems very much like a crime caper in the manner of Ritchie's Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. Con man Jake Green (Ritchie regular Jason Statham) walks out of prison vowing to exact revenge upon the mobster responsible for putting him behind bars: Macha (Ray Liotta). Jake embarrasses Macha at the roulette table, but before he can enjoy his spoils, he's diagnosed with an incurable disease that will kill him in three days. Help comes from an unexpected source: Two loan sharks (Andre Benjamin and Vincent Pastore) offer to keep Jake alivebut only if he gives them all his ill-gotten gains and does their every bidding. That includes stealing drugs and money from an increasing paranoid Macha. Jake thinks he's being hustled. But he isn't. We are. It's at this point that Revolver sadly goes off on its philosophical and psychological tangents. Ritchie not only reveals that Jake possesses a mathematical formula to pulling off the ultimate con, but he introduces an unseen boss of bosses whose presence hangs heavy over the proceedings. You cling to the faint hope that Ritchie's doing his own spin on The Usual Suspects, but as time crawls by, it's evident he's trying to wreck his comeback bid by misguidedly playing amateur psychologist in much the same way David Fincher did with Fight Club.
Five minutes into Revolver and you're hoping Jake Green dies a swift death. And it's not because Stathamwho plays Jake like a more subdued version of Crank's Chev Chelios, minus the mid-Atlantic growlis better suited to roles that require more brawl and less brains. It's just that Statham never stops with his narration. He babbles on and on and on. Admittedly, Statham's narration allows us to make some sense of what's going on in the murky and muddled Revolver. But Ritchie doesn't use Statham judiciously. Everything that happensbig or smallmust be addressed. And it wouldn't be so bloody annoying if at least Ritchie made the narration colorful and engaging, or if Statham delivered it without such weariness. At least our favorite Goodfella is around to break up the monotony. Just weeks after spoofing his volcanic screen image in Bee Movie, Liotta threatens to erupt like Mount Vesuvius at the slightest provocation. He's also something of a sight to behold when he's holding court wearing nothing but bikini briefs and a tan that George Hamilton would kill for. The nattily Benjamin plays up the cooler-than-thou persona he's perfected with OutKast, which makes it easy to believe he always has the upper hand over everyone else in Revolver. On the other hand, Pastore never makes his loan shark as smart as he's supposed to be, but at least he wisely tones down his Sopranos shtick.
Crime once paid handsomely for Guy Ritchie. Not now, though. The only true enemy is your own ego, psychiatrists and psychologists put forth during the end credits. OK, at least this explains a little why Revolver is the incoherent mess that is. But it also leads you to the inescapable conclusion that Ritchie was at war with himself when he plotted his gangland homecoming. It was inevitable that Ritchie's ambitions would have gotten the best of him after his Swept Away public beating. Unfortunately, Ritchie's attempt to apply The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to his fun, flashy and frenetic brand of crime capers backfires in his face. Ritchie simply doesn't have the same insights into the criminal mind that, say The Sopranos creator David Chase does. And the endless references to chess theory, numerology and Kabbalic traditions prove to be more confusing than enlightening. Perhaps all this would be tolerable if Revolver was half the adrenaline rush that was Snatch. But Ritchie peels away at the film's psychological layers at a plodding pace. Consequently, this isn't the triumph of substance over style that Ritchie desperately wants it to be. And even its current form, which is reportedly 10 minutes shorter than the two-year-old U.K. version, Revolver is pointless and impenetrable. There are the occasional flashes of vintage Ritchie, especially during a brilliantly executed shootout involving a renegade hitman and an animated sequence right out of Kill Bill. This, though, leaves you wondering what Revolver would have