First off, Guy Ritchie was once married to Madonna. There, now that that's out of the way, there should be no further need to incorporate this fact into a look at the director's possibly most underlooked release, called simply Revolver. When it comes to Ritchie, audiences tend to underestimate his ability to create meaningful films with characters who are more than just reticent ruffians looking to make a pound through any means necessary. Though it may take a second viewing, Ritchie's catalog of work never fails to contain a deeper message. Ritchie, perhaps aware of the average viewer's indolence when it comes to having to interpret a movie's latent theme, swiftly reveals the entire purpose of Revolver through the psychological labyrinth of Jake Green (Jason Statham).
While still in the genre of crime dramedy, Revolver is a vast departure from Ritchie's first two films. However, just as Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, Revolver intertwines its stories to an incestuous degree. Even when something appears unrelated to a particular plot point, it turns out to be the key to understanding another. In the past, Ritchie's focus has primarily been on the story of his film, but in the world of Revolver, Jake Green drives the action and without his ultimate discovery, the story would be rendered monotonous and uneven. Actually, there are several occasions when the film borders on being tedious and nonsensical, but these moments are compensated for by the characters and the humorously biting dialogue that comes out of their mouths.
Avi, played by Andre Benjamin of Outkast, is an exceptionally salient character. His sudden entrance into Jake's life comes at a time when he is unconsciously desperate for someone to save him from himself. Along with Avi, Zach (Vincent Pastore) teaches Jake that the answers are right in front of him if only he was willing to look. Benjamin seems to have a genuine feel for the character that adds a layer of richness to his irreverent persona. Ray Liotta as Macha is another wise casting decision as he shamelessly struts around in little more than a Speedo-like bathing suit and silk robe for half the movie.
Back when rumors of the film's plot first began to circulate, entertainment writers spoke of a Kabbalah-based theme. As it turns out, there is a heavy Kabbalah influence, but none that is noticeable to the untrained eye. In Kabbalist texts, there is a discussion of the ego and the opponent. Ritchie applies these principles to the concept of his film: When we allow ego to dominate our actions, we become our own worst opponent. Through a series of voice-overs by Jake, the audience is slowly permitted to see that he is the one destroying himself, not Sam Gold (a mysterious crime lord who doesn't really exist) or Macha or Lord John or anyone else he perceives to be pitted against him. Toward the end of the film, lucidity surfaces when Jake says:
There is something about yourself that you don't know. Something that you will deny even exists, until it's too late to do anything about it. It's the only reason you get up in the morning. The only reason you suffer the shitty puss, the blood, the sweat and the tears. This is because you want people to know how good, attractive, generous, funny, wild and clever you really are. Fear or revere me, but please, think I'm special. We share an addiction. We're approval junkies. We're all in it for the slap on the back and the gold watch.
Truer words were never spoken.
While there are many gaps left uncovered in the narrative, the flaws are worth enduring for the final realization of what Ritchie wishes to express. One of the quotes that appears continually throughout the movie is taken from the mouth of Julius Caesar:
The greatest enemy will hide in the last place you would ever look.
That enemy is you and the approval-seeking mind you let flourish.
Revolver is not a film for those who are hoping to find a similar style to that of Lock, Stock… and Snatch, but it is a film for those who are ready to embrace a new era in Ritchie's career. Swept Away signaled the transitioning point in his approach to writing and directing and Revolver sought to make that evolution complete. It is because of Revolver that the director's subsequent film, RocknRolla, proved, once again, his versatility and aptitude for taking his critics and proponents by surprise.