Monday, April 13, 2009


Bloody Awful!

Guy Ritchie's 'Revolver' is truly awful. “Sucka!” It says to anyone dim enough to ignore this review, buy tickets, rent or, worse, purchase this load of absolute rubbish. It claims to be a "thriller." As such, it is a thriller without thrills. An 'action' movie that offers shards of violence and a ‘comedy’ ham-fistedly constructed to allow laughter as a reaction to glib double-entendres and actors who turn to face the camera and give the audience the old nudge-nudge! Wink- wink! There really is no there there, just a bla, inexpressive meaningless jumble of flashbacks and flash-forwards, glib subtitles, epigraphs, epitaphs, messages and mottos. Scenes play out which are a deconstructed, soporific trick-bag of clichés. Having enjoyed Ritchie's first two Tarantino Homage a la anglais films, 'Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrel' and 'Snatch,' I watched this abortion in a state of befuddled amazement. How, one wonders, can a filmmaker show so much wit and potential and then fail so badly? It's like Kosuke Fukodome for last year's Cubs'. A great .392 start and then somebody discovered he couldn't hit an outer plate curve ball during the All-Star game. Served a never-ending diet of the aforesaid curve thereafter, Fukodome didn't adjust, he simply quit.

My wife blames Madonna. Humiliated by the worldwide sniggering which accompanied his remake of the proto-'feminist' masterpiece 'Swept Away,' starring the beloved Madge, Ritchie made his mind up to rediscover his 'roots.' Why not, the Scottish landed aristocrat decided, make a new kind of streetwise gangster film? Only this time with a convincing, psychologically authentic story line. Sounds good: Right? Unfortunately, it doesn't work. Instead of doing his homework--a great idea would have been a weekend spent watching 'Rififi' and 'Kill Bill'--Ritchie got pseud. Anyway, now that the couple are divorced, perhaps Ritchie can leave all the kabbalist and Lina Wertmuller influences behind and get back to entertainment, or else, on the evidence of 'Revolver,' claim his seat in the House of Lords and be content to keep his slumming slumming confined to the Russian millionaires in the good seats at Stamford Bridge cheering for Chelsea.

The plot. Well, sort of a plot? Jake Green(Jason Statham) has spent seven years in jail wearing a silly wig, working on a bizarre Transatlantic accent, sitting in solitary between a con man in the cell on one side and a chess master on the other. Back in the world, wearing a late 70s white pimp wardrobe, after seven years of passing messages back and forth between the bent genius brainiacs, Jake dreams up a quasi-mystical Kabbalistic formula for the con to end all cons, with which he intends to avenge himself. Jake plays in a casino run by his old boss and now enemy, Mr. Macha (Ray Liotta), and wins big at the table. Obviously, he cheated, right? A vindictive Liotta then sends hit men to get him. Luckily, two mysterious strangers (Vincent Pastore and Andre Benjamin) arrive to save Mr. Green. Who could these two men be?

Meanwhile, feeling a wee bit poorly, Jake goes to see a doctor and undergoes bloodtests. Told he has a rare blood disease and only three days to live, Jake wonders, is someone conning him? Who are Avi and Zach. (Some wisenheimer behind me in the theater, whenever Jake pondered Pastore's identity, kept saying "It's Pussy!" recalling the character Pastore played for years in 'The Sopranos')? Why does Jake give them every cent he has, ask for a job and squirm when they send him out to collect bad loans? Meanwhile, Macha does a huge drug deal with crime lord Sam Gold but gets ripped off by Zeke and Avi. His efforts to replace the dope before Gold or his psychopathic partner Lily Walker (Francesca Annis) get wise puts him on a collision course with a mad dog Asian gangster, Lord John (Tom Wu), and his psychotic crew. Avi and Zach manipulate this gang war, all the while tormenting Jake with gnomic pronouncements about patience and "the life force." Gangsters get shot from film school angles. Blood spatters, bones crunch, teeth break, and bullets, bits of teeth and gum and spittle fly in super-slo-mo, as, all the boring while, Statham delivers a steady parroted stream of hard-boiled James M. Cain wannabe 'philosophy' in voiceover. Now that his career in more traditional action movies has made him bulletproof to the occasional barking dog like this one, I can assure Statham that he has repaid whatever debt he owed Ritchie for casting him as a neophyte ten-thousand-fold.

A quick compliment to Mr. Ritchie. Nice of him to hire Francesca Annis. All credit to him for this. It's an attempt to resuscitate her career in the same way Tarantino revived the fortunes of Sonny Chiba, John Travolta, Robert Forster and Michael Parkes. Annis, best known in the U.S. for her work in the Masterpiece Theater production of 'Lily' and the dreadful 'Tommy and Tuppence' PBS Mystery show, was a true teenage hottie when I was a spotty twelve-year-old on 'Lift-Off'. Nice to see her working again!

That's about as complimentary as I can get. Ritchie may gift-wrap this crap by daring to list such 'experts' as psychoanalyst Dr. Peter Fonagy and Oprah's New Age sycophant, Deepak Chopra, in the closing credits, but it's still crap. A few nice bits of animation, reverse motion, youth market trompe l'oeil production design and nice bits of clever lighting, to be sure, but, really, it's still crap crap CRAP!

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