Monday, February 2, 2009
[Pay no attention to the quote on the poster]
Of all the late-90s Tarantino knockoffs who popped up in the wake of Pulp Fiction, Guy Ritchie was certainly the best. He clearly owed a debt to that New-New-Wave guru, but added enough cockney charm to stand out somewhat. There's nothing in either Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels or Snatch I'd call brilliant (save perhaps Brad Pitt's turn as an Irish gypsy), but both of them are quintessential rainy day films, and I looked forward to his next project.
Then I heard about Swept Away, his disastrous 2002 romance film starring then-wife Madonna. Supposedly one of the worst films ever made, it's on my to-see list, and I can hardly wait. But Ritchie's return to the world of British gangster's, Revolver, would be a step back on track, right?
Wrong. Revolver gets so much so wrong that I'm hesitant to even give it the time of day. I feel like Sheriff Bell from No Country for Old Men: this film frightens me, and the only way I could understand it is if I made myself a part of its rampant failure. It's as if Ritchie went through his two previous films and, like a bizarro surgeon, carefully removed every negative quality, then sewed them all together to make this. It gave me the answer to a question I never thought I'd think up: what if Frankenstein reanimated a pile of shit?
The plot: Jake Green (Jason Statham) gets out of prison, where he's been for seven years for reasons that are only alluded to. Apparently a casino owner (Ray Liotta) put him there because Jake figured out the "Formula" to win at every game. Then he learns to apply the Formula to lif- no, you know, what? I'm not bothering. There's no sense of internal logic here, so why should I waste time?
To cut down to the bare essentials and cut out all of the film (you're welcome), the film aims to be a meditation on greed and ego, and the Formula is the ultimate rejection of the ego's effect on our lives. I say "aims" because it fails completely. In order to put his point forward, Ritchie mixes his kinetic style of directing with Richard Kelly's type of--for lack of a better term--writing. That means time jumps, alternate realities, and just a general state of confusion.
Don't get me wrong; I admire the fact that Ritchie didn't just remake Lock, Stock again, and that he tried to add some intelligence to the fray, but there's a big difference between intelligence and just tacking crap together randomly. Statham has to play both himself and himself, as Jake Green and his ego, and that creates a problem. Statham exists for one reason: to kill things, preferably with punches and cars. Suddenly he represents the existentialism of the mind? You might as well remake a Katherine Hepburn movie with Jessica Alba.
It's flashy; I'll give Ritchie that. But his camera tricks add nothing to the story other than to call attention to themselves and to annoy the hell out of me. And what happened to Ray Liotta? I'm not the first one to say this and, until he finally gets into a good movie again, I won't be the last, but what an utter tragedy. At least Mickey Rourke's crazy; what's Liotta's excuse? This isn't the worst film I've ever seen, but it's up (down?) there. Thank God RocknRolla got Ritchie back into the realm of adequacy.