Sunday, March 23, 2008

Revolver...out now, makes little sense...skip it. (****4/10)

If a movie is going to be confusing, that is fine. If you have to watch that movie a second time in order to fully understand everything, that is fine. If you need a third or fourth viewing, I'm OK with that too. However, these movies rarely do great at the box office. Most of their money is made on DVD, where people can watch the film over and over in order to understand what's going on. This worked very well for The Usual Suspects, Fight Club, Memento...all great movies, all difficult to follow, all requiring at the very least a second viewing. But that is the key. If you are going to make a movie like that, make it worthwhile. Make it entertaining enough and cool enough and mysterious enough that people want to sit through it a second time. If you put a lot of effort into making your movie actually make sense, then you should make sure people will watch it enough to actually make sense of it. This is the problem with Slipstream, it is the problem with Southland Tales, and it is the biggest problem with Revolver.

Jason Statham stars in Revolver as a man who has just been let out of prison. He tracks down the guy who put him behind bars, Ray Liotta, and goes after him. Then he finds out that he has only three days to live, and meets two strange men (Big Pussy from The Sopranos and Andre 3000 from Outkast) who blackmail him into doing some bad things. Or are they actually bad things? Statham is the ultimate B-level star, a guy who will never make the jump to Bruce Willis status, but remain forever mired on a Jean-Claude Van Damme level of celebrity. The Transporter movies, Crank (where he has one day to live), War, just about everything he has done has made money, but they are, make no mistake, B movies. As is Revolver. Ray Liotta is a B-level actor as well. Some say the ultimate B-movie actor. And this movie is B class all the way. But it is trying SO HARD not to be. It tries SO hard to be the next Memento or Fight Club. Mystery upon mystery, layer upon layer, enigmas and red herrings and twists and turns and revelations. All the while, Statham does a voice over that smacks of self-satisfaction, analogies to chess and The Art Of War and philosophy and Machiavelli. However, these references are not nearly as smart as the makers of Revolver think they are.

And in the end, the movie does not sustain enough momentum to make it worth watching again. The end screwed me up the first time. I kind of got it, but not fully. And yet, the movie itself was not compelling enough to watch it again. His motivations seem clearly explained by his chess-related voiceovers, but if you look a little below the surface, nothing he does makes any sense, if he is as smart as he seems to think he is. Then there are these weird "artsy" animated bits thrown in, I can't imagine why. This film is so self-satisfied and so obnoxious that even if the ending baffles you, you will never go back to check it out yourself. This movie is not smart, it is not deep, and it is not good.

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