Guy Ritchie’s first real attempt to try to combine his signature gangster film with a somewhat more purposeful meaning was met with severe backlash from many critics, many of whom considered the final product to be “disjointed” or “pretentious.” It received a dismal 17% on rotten tomatoes. Ironically, big name film critics are some of the people who have the most to learn from watching Revolver, a message about how a man’s ego and his true self can be entirely different entities.
Revolver sports a cast with some household names; Jason Statham (of course, it’s Guy Ritchie) Ray Liotta, Vincent Pastore and, most noticeably Mark Strong, whose underrated performance is one of the brightest spots of the film. Statham’s character, a high risks gambler who has spent the recent years of his life holed up in solitary confinement, learns that he must give up any ambitions he has of getting revenge on those who wronged him. Instead, he must humble himself and work for his very survival for a pair of men who have the key to whether he lives or dies.
Still with me? Right away this movie differs from the norm. So many people would want to see a juiced up Statham work towards getting revenge and getting even. Instead, they have to watch a man sacrifice revenge to save himself from himself. It’s not a film that will ever have wide public appeal, or be popular with critics, and here’s why: critics are exactly the kind of people this film attacks. Self-absorbed egomaniacs who believe they have the ultimate authority on all that is right and wrong, proper or disappointing. So when a big name film critic sees this, he is forced to think about him/herself in a way that makes him/her distinctly uncomfortable. Self-reflection isn’t popular among those with alarmingly high self-esteem. Consequently, they feel worse having seen it, and give it a poor review.
The social message of this movie isn’t hard to find, or as subtle as so many claim. We live in a time when people bury themselves under layers of designer clothes and makeup. They put on an air of superiority and are always, always in the right. What Revolver attempts to do is expose the ego’s control over so many people. It believes that the only way an individual can truly be free is to allow themselves to be free of the arrogance and face-saving techniques that they so commonly employ. To genuinely humble oneself and be the better man. The problem with this film, and why it was unsuccessful is that it asks people to accept too strong a degree of change too quickly; history has shown that people can only deal with small, lethargic changes or else will resist entirely.
Revolver at its best indicates why the movie industry has become what it has become. The films that do best are the ones that entertain the masses without making them think, or calling on them to acknowledge a way of thinking that might make them uncomfortable. Ritchie’s “forgotten” movie may fade into complete obscurity over the years but the lesson of what happens when a script tries to get people to think critically of themselves will not be forgotten. Revolver may very well be the last film of its kind in that regard.