Dir/scr: Guy Ritchie. Fr-UK. 2005. 110mins.

After the fiasco of Swept Away there wasnowhere to go but up for writer/director Guy Ritchie. Retreating to the safeterritory of gangland squabbles, dirty deeds, diamond geezers and hardcoreviolence must have seemed like a good idea but Revolver is such aconvoluted, risibly overwrought muddle of a thriller that it is unlikely torevive his fortunes.

An attempt to muscle in on the territory defined by TheUsual Suspects and Fight Club, it is sleekly made but so inscrutablethat audiences will be left feeling bewildered and disappointed. The prospectof a new thriller from the maker of Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrelsmay help to hustle up some initial business but word-of-mouth will be a killer.It opens in the UK on Sept 23.

Using an abundance of voice-over narration andinternal monologues, Ritchie has fashioned a thriller with delusions ofgrandeur that become apparent in the glossy, stylised settings, the use ofclassical music and intertitles flagging up quotations from Machiavelli andJulius Caesar.

He seems to borrow generously from every influentialgenre hit of the past decade, even including an animated sequence in the mannerof Tarantino's Kill Bill.

Ritchie regular Jason Statham stars as Jake Green, aman who has spent the past seven years in solitary confinement, inhabiting acell sandwiched between a chess master and a master con man. When he isreleased, his main priority is to avenge himself on ruthless gangster Macha(Liotta), the man who killed his sister-in-law and sent him to prison.

Two years later his focus is thrown by the news thathe is suffering from a rare blood disorder and may die within a matter of days.Then he is visited by smooth operators Avi (Benjamin) and Zach (Pastore), whoinvite him to place his ill-gotten gains and future in their capable hands.

Unfolding like a game of chess, Revolver is amaze-like puzzle filled with cryptic observations about the rules of the game,useful strategies for survival, codes of honour and what is required to pullthe wool over an opponent's eyes. It has a verbosity that could match thescreenplay of The Usual Suspects but without that film's precision andingenuity.

Gradually, it becomes apparent that all the talk issmoke and mirrors. The more we journey towards the heart of the maze, the lesssense the film seems to make and some of the revelations and mind-bogglingconversations that ensue merely provoked derisive laughter among the previewaudience at Toronto.

Statham continues to improve as an actor and brings acertain stony-faced sang froid to his role. Frequently seen in leopard-skinbriefs, the orange-tanned Liotta is allowed to chew the scenery in the kind ofrole that he could now play in his sleep.

Mark Strong has some memorable moments as an icyhitman but the film's best performance comes from Andre Benjamin who brings asmooth, velvety style to his role, even though you suspect he has as much ideaof what is really going on as most members of the audience.

Hues that range from blood red to steely blue add tothe visual allure of the film and Ritchie still knows how to stagestomach-churning violence. But as you stagger out of Revolver scratchingyour head you can only assume there is less here than meets the eye.

Production companies
Europa Corp
Revolver Pictures Co

UK distribution

International sales
Europa Corp

Executive producer
Steve Christian

Luc Besson
Pierre Spengler

Tim Maurice Jones

Production design
Eve Stewart

James Herbert
Ian Differ
Romesh Aluwihare

Main cast
Jason Statham
Ray Liotta
Vincent Pastore
Andre Benjamin
Terrence Maynard
Mark Strong