Revolver (2005): Guy Richie’s Ode to Kabbalah


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With nothing better to do, I finally decided to bite the bullet and watch Revolver last night. The film was universally panned by almost every critic worldwide, except for Mark R Leeper who stated that the film would have a “narrow” audience. (Wikipedia)

You can say that again.

As the film finished on a black screen being serenaded by a piano, I gazed at the screen and said, “What the fudge was that?”

You know a film is esoteric to the extreme when you have to look the damn thing up after you’ve watched it, to try and figure out what the hell went on for 110 minutes.

And since I only know what Wikipedia told me about Kaballah (I mean apart from the fact that Ritchie’s then wife Madonna was heavily into the religion) I still don’t know what the hell was going on in the film.

Directed and co-written by Guy Ritchie with the marvellously talented Luc Beeson, Revolver is an exercise in frustration, hidden meanings (at least hidden from me) and strange character interludes with the camera a la schizophrenia.

Jason Startham stars as Jake Green; wide boy and games player extraordinary. He gets out of prison and goes to confront his old boss Dorothy Macha (Ray Liotta) about getting the money that Macha owes him. On his way out of Dorothy’s casino, a very large man stops Green and says, you’re in a lot of trouble, call me. He also hands Green a card with the words, take the elevator on it. (Green has a phobia about lifts)

Ray Liotta is feeling blue...
Ray Liotta is feeling blue…

Green doesn’t look at the card and takes the stairs, collapsing the second he starts down. He wakes up and is told he has three days to live. The big man and his partner then decide to help Jake by taking all his money and making him deliver it to various people around town. They also start seriously messing with Macha taking his money and his drugs that he is supposed to deliver to the menacing and never-seen Mr Gold.

I watched this film confused from the first scene and kept watching hoping that it would all be made clear to me by the end. The only thing that became clear to me was that the “hit man” hired by Macha, resplendent in his glasses and natty suit, was Mark Strong who played Big Frank D’Amico in Kick Ass. I spent at least half of the movie trying to figure out why he looked so familiar.

 

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Even after reading about how the characters and the numbers and the colours were representative of the “teachings” of Kabbalah, my comprehension of this film is still zero.

I guess I can take some comfort in knowing that most of the world’s critics didn’t like the film either, but not too much. I don’t as a rule trust many critics, although there are a few that I do listen to. So I can only shrug in bewilderment and wonder what in the hell was Guy Ritchie thinking?

Obviously as a gesture to his (then) wife Madonna aka Madge in the UK, he decided to make an “Ode to Kabbalah” since she was a little obsessed with the religion.

I will say this for Ritchie and his film, I could not stop watching it. Not because it was that good, but because I kept hoping to figure out what was going on.

It is on Netflix in the UK at the moment, but don’t go out of your way to watch it. Unless you understand Kabbalah intimately you’ll get lost. If you don’t? I guess it’s just me, then.

I think I had the exact same expression on my face (sans lollipop) while watching this film.
I think I had the exact same expression on my face (sans lollipop) while watching this film.

 

Author: Mike's Film Talk

Former Actor, Former Writer, Former Journalist, USAF Veteran, http://MikesFilmTalk.com Former Member Nevada Film Critics Society

14 thoughts on “Revolver (2005): Guy Richie’s Ode to Kabbalah”

  1. I thought the film was cinematically strong (and fun to watch) but narratively weak, with allegorical, not-human characters. The basic psychological theme is that the ego (‘Mr. Gold’) persuades each of us that it is ‘me’ when in fact it is a fear-originated false self controlling us — something I think anyone with a basic grounding in Buddhism or psychedelia (or Star Wars) should grasp, even out of the confusion of the plot.

    I also don’t think the film (or a grasp of its meanings) has much to do with real Kabbalah (an ancient form of Jewish mysticism), though it may reflect some of the ‘Kabbalah’-teachings Madonna’s ‘rabbis’ are handing out.

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  2. The end sequence with the psychoanalysts sums up the gist of the film. It’s about a false self we possess (the ego) and about overcoming it through authentication (individuation) of the the real self. The classic good-vs-evil debate, Satan vs God, etc.

    Although the film is quite mystical and esoteric in certain aspects, it deals with something tangible and mundane, i.e. human relationships. I’m not entirely initiated in any of its occult/hermetic leanings, but it is one of my favorite films. To be sure, an advanced grasp on Kabbalah would help to better comprehend this little gem. For me, it dealt more with the concepts in alchemy. Cheers, from southern California.

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  3. I just watched the movie for the first time. Never heard of it before, as it never came to the cinemas in Germany. I think it`s a great movie, something really different. I love such movies. Many questions, complex and mindboggling, but also very entertaining with cool dialogues.

    I have to watch it again. I think it is about “the game” (of duality, represented by chess), a game that`s mystic, a game of overcoming or outplaying the one “real” enemy. But who`s that? At the end, they say it is the own ego. but in a religious or esoteric or maybe kabbalistic sense (?), it might be the devil or your own fears. Or maybe all 3 answers are correct.

    Some scenes remind me of David Lynch`s “Inland Empire”, which I saw yesterday. Sometimes you do not know whether something is “real” or not, because some scenes just show what happens inside the mind or how something is perceived by the mind. You see, I love psychology and mystic stuff. So that`s my kind of movie 🙂

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  4. A non-linear chaos based film that ignores bourgeois notions of standard event timelines? In other words, WTF? I think I’m just take a pass on this one 🙂 They will probably like it in France.

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  5. I think it all means, “Don’t marry Madonna.” It reminds of that bit of dialogue from the movie, DUNE (the one adapted from Frank Herbert’s masterful sci-fi saga):

    Paul: They tried and failed?
    Reverend Mother Mohiam: They tried and died.

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  6. Thank YOU Mike! Someone feels the way I do at least. My boyfriend loves this movie. I can’t even remember what it was about if I even understood in the first place. And I’m scared to rewatch it. haha! This was somewhat tough to watch…

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