Mr Green (Jason Statham) has had a rough seven years stuck in solitary confinement for a crime he was framed for. Now it's two years later, and it's clear that something good has emerged from his torment: thanks to the two men in the cells either side of him, a brilliant conman and a master chess player, Green is an expert gambler. Tonight he is visiting the casino of Dorothy Macha (Ray Liotta), a local big shot, but the tables are closed to him and his associates and he is invited upstairs to see Macha in his private gambling suite. Green again pulls off some dazzling, deceptively simple moves, and this makes him the enemy of Macha. On leaving the room, Green is handed a card by an stranger which tells him to take the elevator, even though he has a phobia about them - suddenly, at the top of the stairs Green collapses, a blackout. Yes, there's something strange going on in his head all right...
When this deliberately confusing thriller was released, many were sceptical that Guy Ritchie could pull off a revitalisation of the gangster genre that had seen him do so well. His previous film, a misguided remake of Swept Away, was a sorry disaster at the box office, so he had a lot to prove, and with Revolver it turned out he wasn't doing himself any favours. It opens with four or five quotes, stuff from Machiavelli, that sort of thing, suggesting Ritchie had been browsing a book of quotations to set up his story, and as these quotes are repeated throughout the film, maybe he should have browsed a little further. At least he could have come with something funnier, because this film takes itself painfully seriously, a tone verging on the pompous that makes it appear that coherence would be beneath it.
One thing that Ritchie does do right is the whole look of the film, a slick surface sheen thanks to cinematographer Tim Maurice-Jones that really deserves a better framework. Some of the old Ritchie magic is there, the vivid characters for one thing, ranging from Liotta's extravagantly furious gangster boss to Mark Strong's deceptively meek hitman who discovers his conscience a little too late. In the middle of all this is Green, a glowering and hairy Statham, who has been told, first by the manipulative duo of loan sharks Zach (Vincent Pastore) and Avi (Andre Benjamin) and then by the doctors, that he has a debilitating disease that will render him nothing less than dead in the next three days. Which leaves the question of what to do with his money, and Zach and Avi have the perfect solution: give it to them, thanks very much.
And so Green finds himself embroiled - and embroiled is the right word here - in the two men's schemes without really understanding what they're up to, but knowing the target is Macha, the man who has slighted him; indeed Macha wants him dead. There are some well-staged shootouts in amongst all this, but Ritchie seems to have mixed up obscurity with wisdom, so the constantly aphorism-spouting characters seem as all at sea as the viewers. It does sort itself out, but only with a tired revelation used far too often in films in the ten years or so previous to this one, with only the novelty of Statham shouting at himself in a lift to give the twist distinction. As the story grows more tiresome, and the obfuscation is piled on to wearying effect, at least you can admire the scenery, but if you've no head for puzzles you might want to give this one a miss, especially as the solution is so movie banal. There are no credits for some reason - did everyone have their names taken off? Music by Ennio Morricone and Nathaniel Mechaly.
[The DVD includes an interview with Ritchie about the concept which reveals him to be worried about making his thinking behind the story too obvious, a making of documentary, trailer and more.]