Guy Ritchie's Revolver
April 29th, 2003
Regardless of whether his remake of “Swept Away” was good or not, and the few who have seen it say it’s not good at all, the failure of Guy Ritchie’s most recent project has sent him back to the gangster milieu. Initially, Ritchie and his producing partner Matthew Vaughn were going to create an adaptation of JJ Connelly’s “Layer Cake” for shooting earlier this year. However, those plans never materialized. Just last week, Ritchie completed a rewrite of Ethan Gross and Paul Todisco’s original screenplay “Revolver,” which he plans to shoot this September.
You know you are in familiar Ritchie territory when you see character names in the script like The Caddy, French Paul, Fat Dan, Howard The Indian, Johnny Walker and a guy named Dorothy. However, unlike “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” or “Snatch,” the action is moved away from the downtrodden underworld of London and into “a hyper-stylized Vegas, boasting even more hedonism and kitsch.” So what’s it about? Like his other movies, this one can be described in a simple sentence. Several groups of individuals try to screw each other over for a lot of money. And like his other movies, it’s not so much what the movie is about as it is the exuberance in getting from beginning to end.
For the record, Jake Green is a hotshot gambler, long on audacity and short on common sense. He’s rarely allowed to play in any casino because he is a winner. Jake has taken in so much money over the years, he is the only client of his accountant and older brother Billy. One night, Jake, Billy and their other brother Joe are invited to sit in on a private game, where Jake is expected to lose to Dorothy Macha, a crime boss and local casino owner who can’t play for squat, but always wins because people are too scared to lose to him. Jake isn’t afraid of Macha, and not only beats Dorothy in a quick game of chance, but takes every possible opportunity to insult the man. Jake and his brothers leave the game, and Macha puts out the order for a hit on Jake, who ends up working for and being protected by a pair of brothers, Avi and Zack, who are out to take Macha down.
After a quick opening scene where two sets of characters talk about a job about to be pulled, the opening titles begin. And tell me if you heard this one before...
The camera TRACKS INTO the stone between Macha's feet, propelled at great speed into the atoms within, stopping once we have reached the contents of a quark. A sober, scientific voice guides us through the different stages of matter.
OPENING CREDITS BEGIN
We begin watching quarks (which look like tiny white stars on a black background) and we PULL OUT, exponentially, from the nucleus... Electrons... Atoms... Tangible matter...
PULLING OUT from the stone between Macha's feet... From pedestrians and cars... The streets at night... The city... The continents on the globe... The planet...
PULLING FURTHER OUT, past the other planets... Our sun... Our solar system... Others... Our galaxy... Others... The scattered cosmic dust that makes up the known universe...
The sober scientific voice finally concludes that matter doesn't exist, that matter is an illusion. The dust is a powder on a polished black surface. It's the same frame as the one we started on.
This screenplay reads with the same mix of playful colloquiums and ultra hyper violence wrapped in a layer of cool as his other gangster films. But the audience’s familiarity with his own work doesn’t seem to be enough, as Ritchie not only borrows his title sequence from both “Fight Club” and “Contact,” he also references or outright steals from “Heat,” “Pulp Fiction,” “Ocean’s 11” and the Vegas scenes from “Goodfellas.” The entire work is all so familiar that one could easily see Jason Flemyng, Vinnie Jones and Jason Statham in this film, playing any of a dozen roles.
Another major problem with this script is the sheer number of scenes and situations Ritchie has thrown in to the story. While most screenplays might have approximately 130 scenes within its 100 pages, Ritchie has packed 253 scenes into his 127 pages. In one stretch that will transition us from the second to third act, there will be no less than twenty two scenes in the span of a minute, with (as the script notes) the cuts building “towards the end, speeding up until we have 1/4-second cuts.” Michael Bay doesn’t even have that kind of attention deficit. Actually, that’s a conservative number, as Ritchie notes at the end of this sequence “obviously there are more sequences to be installed but I don't wish to bore the reader.”
I’m sorry, Mr. Ritchie, but you already have.
It’s painfully obvious this is a script that has been written knowing full well it already has its funding and will be made. If an un-produced screenwriter wrote this exact same script and sent it to various producers and agents, they would get back a stack of rejection letters, if anyone even wanted to bother with losing the cost of a stamp and the time it takes to stick a form letter into an envelope. Chock full of scene specific camera angles, appalling grammar and spelling errors, and uncompleted character name changes (there are several instances where Jake is referred to as Jack), “Revolver” is the type of screenplay that would give Syd Field nightmares and make Robert McKee commit unspeakable crimes against humanity.
This is not to say Ritchie won’t make a visually arresting work of cinema. At the script level, it’s a busy, jumbled mess. With too many characters trying to screw each other over, too many scenes of characters doing little to advance the plot, too many lucky breaks for the lead and an especially unsatisfying ending, “Revolver” is shooting all blanks. I give this screenplay a D.
Director: Guy Ritchie
Writers: Ethan Gross, Paul Todisco and Guy Ritchie
Producer: Marty Katz
Casting Director: Mindy Marin
Production Start Date: September 2003
Shooting Locations: Los Angeles and Las Vegas
My rating: D
Screenplay by Guy Ritchie, Ethan Gross and Paul Todisco. Draft dated April 21, 2003. 127 pages.