I have avoided seeing Guy Ritchie’s Revolver for a couple years now based on what I’d heard about it. I’ve been so curious, especially since Rocknrolla. Despite the bad words seemingly everybody has to say about Revolver I know that my first pass through RnR I thought it was shite too, then in the last third it seemed to congeal for me and low and behold, upon an almost immediate second viewing I found I LOVED it.
Would the same be true for Revolver? I didn’t know, but I was afraid. Yes afraid. You see, I hate to see people whose work I love fail. I know, I know, I should make up my mind for myself on these things and normally I do. But sometimes, well sometimes when something gets such bad reviews, not just in the mags or sites but from the folks you know, well, it can be daunting setting out to make up your own mind feeling like it’s just going to be an awful experience. This then makes the work in question that much worse if it does suck because hey, you could have avoided it.
But I finally saw Revolver. And… I don’t know if I have a clue how I feel about it.
My catalyst for finally seeing it was a good friend recently saw it and liked it. He wouldn’t say he understood it, but he basically said when it was over he felt as though he’d seen something staggeringly original and profound. After my first viewing the other night I almost felt the same way, except the whole time I was watching the movie a single phrase kept oscillating through my slightly foggy head.
This just doesn’t work.
By the end of that first viewing I really felt like Ritchie had huge, sweepingly profound things to say in Revolver and did indeed manage to say them. And yet much like a hippie trying to describe the profound insights of thirty years of brain-frying acid washing Ritchie’s explanations seemed to come out wrapped in fit-like mouthfulls of nonsense.
I get this.
I’ve studied a lot of abstract theory and a lot of times it’s next to impossible to know where to begin when the itch catches you to try and share the information with others. Usually what I find in these situations is the people who are going to understand it anyway seem to get it from you in the ineffable spaces of the conversations – the silences, the ponderings, the I-don’t-know-how-to-say-this’s. I think this is maybe at best where some of the ego-squashing, celebrity-Kabballah stuff comes through in Revolver, because what is filmed and spoken, while doing a pretty good job of approximating a transference or presentation of the ideas, gets bogged down in the insecurities and unfathomables of trying to write a sleek, entertaining crime movie as the vehicle to deliver those intangible ideas.
So I watched Revolver once, then watched it again the second night (last night) and then immediately followed that up with about a good third of the movie with commentary.Yeah, when I see something like this it’s often hard for me to tell if it’s the flick or just me that’s not getting it, so if it’s an artist I respect I work for it, you know? So I figure let’s hear what they themselves have to say…
Well, it’s not just me. After two-and-a-third viewings I can say I see what my friend saw on his one viewing – that there is something massively profound contained within Revolver. The problem is Ritchie, not taking the lesson from his own creation, had failed to subdue his ego before making it and thus the film suffers from the kid-with-a-new-toy excitement of a man totally swept up by a revelatious* idea. If you hated Revolver, if you loved it or if you were like me and were wholeheartedly on the fence with it go back and listen to Mr. Ritchie try and explain it on the commentary – it sounds like Prof. Frink on the Simpsons espousing hyperbolic theory for ‘even the most dimwitted individuals’ – he hurriedly play-by-plays the ideas in the script as if it were just so amazingly obvious that there’s no time to dwell for those who don’t get it. In fact at some point he mentions that the commentary track we are hearing is a second pass – apparently the first one was so riddled with obscurity that the studio had him do it again, this time with his assistant and what sounds like a studio-appointed ‘wrangler’ present simply to keep him from getting to confusing (or condescending maybe?).
In the end I still don’t know what I think of Revolver. I can’t say I hated it overall but at times I definitely did. I can’t say I liked it but at times I did. I know that a lot of it works if you work, but I also know there are a lot of things about it that simply do not, in any way, shape or form work. And I’m sure I could watch it a few more times (it is well shot and the score is fantastic) but then again, I have my own ineffable ideas to quantize. I’ll stick to the Guy Ritchie I know and love and hope Sherlock Holmes is as good as it looks.
* I know that’s not really a word but it is now and I’m coining it here!!!