“The greatest con that [the ego] ever pulled was making you believe that he is you.”
While not one of Guy Ritchie’s most commercially well-known films, the 2005 film Revolver certainly exemplifies why Ritchie is one of the best cult film directors. Going back to his roots, Revolver has the same feel and style of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, though each are their own unique creatures, especially Revolver. While I’m inclined to like this movie since it has a depth that I believe is lacking within contemporary film, I will be the first to agree with film critic Mark R. Leeper that the film’s audience is narrow and small. It’s not a wonder why Revolver is possibly Ritchie’s worst box-office hit. But nonetheless, it’s a film that’s worth watching.
Starring Jason Statham, Andre (3000) Benjamin, and Vincent Pastore, Revolver’s plot is like an acid trip mixed with a cocktail of prescription pills. Mr. Green (Statham’s character) has been in prison for seven years—in solitary confinement, of all places—and he gets out; but he doesn’t leave with nothing. He leaves with the greatest piece of knowledge a con man could ever want: “The Formula.” What is this mystic “Formula” they talk about? Well long story short, it’s a fail-proof strategy for any con man who wants to be good, with the first rule being ‘to become the best, you must face the best.’ It makes Mr. Green a fortune soon after his release. But not even he could have foreseen some rare blood disease with the prognosis of death in three days. Like his character in Crank, Statham’s only means for survival are to get into bed with some sketchy characters, which is where Avi (Benjamin) and Zach (Pastore) come in. Loan sharks that claim to have the answers to his survival; Mr. Green goes along with them, performing random and miscellaneous loan-shark tasks, like collecting loans and lending out money at exorbitant rates. The external plot is easy and understandable. What makes the film difficult, and at times a mind warp, is all the internal motivations.
Ritchie demonstrates his knowledge of Freud’s concept of the ego, super-ego and the id in Revolver, since every character has some mental issue that affects how they approach life in general. Eventually, the film becomes a commentary on the ego in which the ego becomes the embodiment of all evil. If religion’s personification of the ego is the Devil, then Revolver’s personification of the ego is the ultimate con man. Think about it. The ego is the internal enemy that uses rationalization to conceive of external enemies to project our own faults and shortcomings. Inevitably, the film makes the statement that there are no such things as external enemies, but rather enemy (as a conception) is merely a mental process that comforts us and our flaws. What Ritchie attempts to point out, which modern psychology has been trying to do for the past century, is that the ego is the last place we would look for an enemy since the enemy is ourselves. In so many words, we are our own greatest enemy. And rather than combating or challenging the ego, we’d rather sit complacently in content with our ego and build-up what Freud identified as defense mechanisms to protect its reign over us. Why? The ego is our best friend as well as our greatest enemy. Caesar wasn’t wrong when he said that the last place we’d ever look for an enemy was the closest to home. “The Formula” is set up to be the end-all,be-all cure for the ego in which its strategy, when actualized, rejects the greatest enemy which is the conscious effort of embracing the entirety—and I mean the entirety—of the self. While it’s easy to put into words, the film demonstrates how hard a process it truly is.
Heavy stuff, right? That’s probably why the film has been called pretentious and self-indulgent among many, many other negative reviews. Despite it starring Jason Statham, it’s not an action-packed thrill ride with big guns and explosions around every corner. Rather, it’s a psychological thriller on par with films like Memento and Inception by Christopher Nolan. It will leave you wondering what the hell just happened and how did I arrive here. But trust me. If you’re open about the experience, the film could possibly take you on an unforgettable journey full of morose sweat that will, quite possibly, change your perspective….for the next three days.