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Originally published December 7, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified December 7, 2007 at 5:42 PM

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Movie review

This "Revolver" fires blanks

When psychiatrists and other intellectuals appear during a film's credits to explain what you've just seen, the correct response is not...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Movie review 1.5 stars

"Revolver," with Jason Statham, Ray Liotta, Vincent Pastore, André Benjamin. Written and directed by Guy Ritchie. 115 minutes. Rated R for violence, language and some nudity. Uptown.

When psychiatrists and other intellectuals appear during a film's credits to explain what you've just seen, the correct response is not: Hey, thanks, because I was too thick to understand the last two hours. The correct response is: Wow, they must have run out of ideas to salvage this roadkill at the last minute.

At first, "Revolver" looks like a return to form for Guy Ritchie, whose "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" and "Snatch" became minor gangster classics before he married Madonna and made the putrid "Swept Away" with her. He's got his smoky-voiced tough guy, Jason Statham, who would sound cool reading a Rachael Ray recipe. Ray Liotta is the mobster heavy. Luc Besson, master of classy action flicks, co-produced and "adapted" (whatever that means). Even "Big Pussy" (Vincent Pastore) from "The Sopranos" turns up, for godsakes.

So much for the pedigree. It's an irritating, repetitive and pretentious psycho-metaphysical con-job that's ultimately about transcending the ego, and it owes a significant debt to the 1960s "The Prisoner" TV show — but isn't nearly in the same artistic league.

Jake Green (Statham, sporting a Village People mustache and scraggly wig) has just finished a seven-year prison stretch (draw your own conclusions about the mustache). He wants revenge against the vicious casino boss, Macha (Liotta), who's responsible. And having learned the "ultimate con formula" from a couple of chess masters in the joint, he appears set for the task.

Sensing that Jake is going to be trouble, said boss — who spends his leisure time shouting at people while wearing a Speedo in his tanning room — calls out a hit on Jake with minions who include the bald, bespectacled, hyperlethal Sorter (Mark Strong). And then things stop making much sense. Jake comes down with a fatal disease that gives him only three days to live, yet agrees to give his fortune to a couple of strange loan sharks (Pastore and André Benjamin, Outkast's Andre 3000) in exchange for protection.

Reality starts coming unglued as Jake and the sharks pull some heists that pit Macha against an Asian kingpin. Jake repeats cryptic quotations about chess and the enemy again and again in his voice-over narration. Time is manipulated in the storytelling with slow-motion and rewinds that both stretch things out and make them hard to follow. Jake's internal bickering with himself builds to a boiling point. And there are lots of oblique conversations over games of chess.

At a certain point into this head-trip, whatever goodwill I brought into it had evaporated; I did a cost-benefit analysis with the irritation and circularity, and the film lost decisively — even though the Kabbalah references that reportedly made the studio nervous were lost on me. It does have Ritchie's polished, stylized look, but the exuberance of "Lock, Stock" and "Snatch" has been replaced by something jittery and joyless. After the monumental cheat of an ending, separating myself from my ego seemed less urgent than keeping these people from separating you from your money.

Mark Rahner: 206-464-8259 or mrahner@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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