Guy Ritchie's fourth feature — the first since his ghastly remake of SWEPT AWAY (2002) — takes the larky Brit-gangster mannerisms of SNATCH (2000) and LOCK, STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS (1998) down the rabbit hole and comes up twaddle with a body count. Eviscerated by the U.K. press when it opened in 2005, REVOLVER finally came to U.S. screens shorn of a subplot the writer-director deemed "confusing" but it's still pretentious and not half as clever as it thinks it is.
Professional gambler Jake Green (Ritchie regular Jason Statham, whose lank hairpiece and super-spiv wardrobe give him an eerie resemblance to Peter Stormare) took the fall for dirty casino owner Macha (Ray Liotta) and did his time in solitary, his cell sandwiched between those of a celebrated con man and a chess master. After seven years of passing messages back and forth between the crooked brainiacs, Jake masters a quasi-mystical formula for the con to end all cons, with which he intends to avenge himself. Jake strides into Macha's casino ready to put his plan into action, and then everything goes horribly wrong. Macha sics flunky French Paul (Terence Maynard) and stuttering assassin Sorter (Mark Strong) on Jake and his brother, Billy (Andrew Howard). Jake is told he has a rare blood disease and three days to live — is someone conning him? Who are Avi (Andre Benjamin) and Zach (Vincent Pastore), who say they can help, then force Jake to give them every cent he has, squander it on outrageously bad loans and then order him to collect from the piteous borrowers? Macha does a huge drug deal with legendary crime lord Sam Gold — Dr. Mabuse, Fu Manchu, Professor Moriarty and Fantomas all rolled into one — but loses the goods to Zeke and Avi. His efforts to replace the dope before Gold or his icy right hand, Lily Walker (Francesca Annis), realizes there's been a screw-up puts him on a collision course with psychotic Asian gangster Lord John (Tom Wu) and his minions. Avi and Zach manipulate the escalating gang war and torment Jake with gnomic pronouncements. Blood spatters, bones break, and bullets and spittle fly as Statham delivers a stead stream of hard-boiled philosophizing in voiceover.
Ritchie wraps this folderol in cinematic razzle-dazzle, including animated sequences, reverse motion, trompe l'oeil production design and tricky lighting. But it's still claptrap, no matter how many experts — from psychoanalyst Dr. Peter Fonagy to New Age windbag Deepak Chopra — show up as the end credits roll to explain the heavy ideas behind the silly mind games. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh