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Wow. I only found about this movie about six weeks ago, and already, I’ve watched it five times. It took me three times to really settle in to what I was watching. The first time seeing it, I couldn’t decide if I was watching a revenge film or an action flick. It’s neither, although that’s how it was marketed, from all I can find out about “Revolver”. This film is about the individual self trying to defeat the false ego.
We are all born lacking self awareness. That usually doesn’t begin until around 18 months or so. At that point we start becoming more conscious of ourselves and surroundings. We can react to specific events and catalog them away for future use by our brains. And that is also what begins to happen on a larger and larger scale as we age. We begin to develop a personality and trains of thought based on what we experience and learn. We start to build up a protective self, the ego. As we age, we nurture it and protect it. We believe we are protecting ourselves and in a physical sense perhaps we are. But mentally, we are simply doing what the voice in our heads tells us to do. We develop automatic reactions and thoughts. Our ego, or false self, is that voice in your head that says “I hope you hit a telephone pole.” when someone cuts you off in traffic. It’s that voice who returns any type of negativity with negativity. It’s what we do. If we feel attacked or wronged, we believe we must react to defend ourselves. But why? Is responding to a negative with a negative helping us mature as human beings? Will doing so lead to a happier self? Are negative responses leading to positive feelings and situations later down the road? In my life, I’ve found the answer those questions to be no.
In “Revolver”, the main character, Jake Green (Jason Statham), is imprisoned and then released after seven years. The responsible party seems to be Dorothy Macha (Ray Liotta, in a more than solid effort). Macha has everything a person could want. Wealth, power, material possessions, and a life of total leisure. Except for the underlying feeling that it all hangs by a thread, that his happiness is thrown out the window for the perception of power and superiority. As Green leaves prison, he makes attempts to strike back at Macha, through mind techniques he learned in prison. But as he begins to get his pound of flesh out of Macha, he finds that he has only a short time to live, but two con men, Avi and Zach (played by Andre Benjamin & Vincent Pastore) tell Green they can save him if he does exactly what they say. Green reluctantly agrees and the film carries on from there; Green trying to save himself by letting go and letting someone else make his decisions.
If you plan on seeing the film, and don’t want spoilers, I don’t intend to give you any. A couple have and will slip out, but the movie won’t be ruined by knowing anything. It’s not a film you can really get in touch with unless you have dove into it a time or three.
The ego is powerful in most everyone. Director Guy Ritchie shoves that down the throat of the viewer, even if the viewer can’t see the forest for the trees. The character Macha, has everything anyone could ever want. But, you never see him enjoy anything. He is in a constant battle to keep up appearances, to avenge humiliation, and to protect himself from enemies that may only be the manifestation of his own fear, and uncertainty….both of which flutter just below the surface of the character. The character is all ego. All action and reaction is done to save face, avoid ridicule, and to seem in control. It’s something I can relate to when I stop and examine how I’ve lived my life and how I’ve reacted to every major situation in my life. And yeah, day to day, I can see my ego defending itself in the smallest of experiences. By becoming mindful of the present, I’ve started being able to slap the ego back and respond to each moment of my life in a way that benefits me and anyone involved in the most positive way. Even if that means seemingly giving up power, seeming weak to others, or allowing myself to be humbled. For you Bible folks…..that would be the very heart of “turning the other cheek” and part of “do unto others….” A negative reaction to a negative situation never brings conclusion. It can only lead to more negativity, even if it isn’t immediately apparent. React with love rather than defending the ego.
Most of “Revolver” is metaphor. You need to watch the movie as if you are seeing parts of the lead characters minds working. The film has very little sense of time period or place. It’s depressingly brilliant in its’ look and feel. The bright lights and glitter seem too overbearing to be real and the dullness of the streets reflect misery and/or unhappiness. It’s only when Green is talking with his new “friends” over a game of chess that the surroundings seem to be settled and normal. So, in a sense, when he is figuring out who he is and starting to learn that he has an enemy, but the enemy is inside his mind, that’s when he is the most in touch with himself and almost pleased. If you go into the movie trying to watch it, as pure entertainment, that is exactly what it shows you, (examples, “Oceans 11” or “Armageddon”) you will be severely disappointed. You have to allow your mind to consider that each part of the film is showing you something that is familiar, but you just have not figured out how to see it yet. That’s why the film works so well on repeated viewings. There is one scene that is all about the Biblical story of the children of Israel and the Egyptians. Watching the movie with the commentary on is very enlightening, but I don’t suggest that if you really want to tackle the film on your own and try to make sense and meaning on your terms. Draw your own conclusions before giving in to the commentary.
The film only gets a 16% from critics on RottenTomatoes.com and that’s about right, given the things that are criticized about the film. Most of the critics were watching the movie, not experiencing the film. Why? Because they can’t understand what it means. They are not open to the metaphors in the film that refer to the mind. They have no frame of reference for exploring the false sense of self. Again, it’s not that they are stupid or bad film critics….it’s that (notice how I word it, this isn’t a put down) they CAN’T understand it. After all I have explained to this point, it can be made no more obvious than in how Roger Ebert chose to talk about the film. In his words, it’s obvious that he has no understanding that the film is not “Lock, Stock, & Two Smoking Barrels” or “Snatch”. He is looking at it for immediate sensory satisfaction, not as a piece of art to be poured over, thought about, and then discussed. Anyhow….here is what Ebert said;
“The plot. What is the plot? Jason Statham has spent seven years in jail, between a con man in the cell on one side and a chess master on the other. Back on the street, he walks into a casino run by his old enemy Ray Liotta and wins a fortune at the table. Did he cheat, or what? I dunno. Liotta sics some hit men on him. Then two mysterious strangers (Vincent Pastore and Andre Benjamin) materialize in Statham’s life at just such moments when they are in a position to save it. Who, oh who, could these two men, one of whom plays chess, possibly be?”
I find it unbelievable that Ebert missed it all so badly. He’s a major league film critic who wrote a review without trying to find out what the film was about. That’s a very unprofessional rant. He asks what the plot is, but fails to address it in a learned manner. It’s all one dimensional to his eye. Oh, well, on with the show…..
Our egos control most of us and most of what we do. That systematic building of responses and actions that happen in an instant without us even giving a thought, are part of that ego. It can be changed. The ego is part of what gives us confidence and tries to see to our “well being” at all times. While there seems to be nothing wrong with that, is it how you really want to live? Is it how you want to feel? Frankly, I’m tired of uncertainty, fear, arrogance, and anger determining my responses to what life offers me. Those things have held me back and continue to do so. If I didn’t stop and be mindful of my life and the fact that I am going to die, there is no way I would have made the personal strides I have made. Some may not believe they are positive, but in my skin, most of what I have let go of has made me a much happier human being. I’m wiggling free of the ego. Hell, I just quit my job of 15 years. Odd thing is, other than the “voice” telling me that I was an idiot and I should just stick with the safeness and stability of where I am, my mother has been the only other person to have a negative view of what I’ve done. Is it a coincidence that the false self, the protecting of the self by my ego happens to agree with my mom? The person who raised me and without a doubt was responsible for some of the negative traits in my personality as well as the positive? Not knocking mom. Just saying that we all have influences and stimulus. They have shaped who we are. But, if those things shaped us, then are we who we think we are? We didn’t make conscious decisions to become the people we are. It was all built by learning or being taught how others behave.
I urge anyone who is even mildly interested in this stuff to do some soul searching. Think about how you react to the world every single moment of your life. Is it all negative? Are you constantly kicking others (even if just in your head) to make sure you feel safe and superior? If a person who made your hamburger forgets the pickle, do you need to ask them how smart they have to be to make a burger or do you simply ask them to take care of the mistake? If your kid spills milk on the floor, do you need to scream and overreact or could you just help him/her clean up the mess and assure them that the world isn’t ending? Which reaction in those scenarios creates the best result for everyone involved? Which reactions will likely allow the event to be inconsequential and which could spiral into more negativity, even going beyond the parties involved?
The end of “Revolver” involves a sort of show down between Green and Macha. It is the finale’….the “high noon” shootout. Green confronts Macha, his fear of elevators, and his fear of humiliation all within a five minute period that is brilliantly acted by Statham and Liotta. Liotta’s “Macha” and Statham’s “Jake Green” make their decisions and the results are obvious. Choose to be a slave of the ego or choose to be in control of your every moment. The film came down to that in a very powerful way. Again, Liotta is great in this scene.
So, I’ve kind of half assed gave you a lecture on ego and sort of given you some help on how to watch Guy Ritchie’s “Revolver”. What’s it worth? About the same thing the rest of my blogs are worth. I hope any of you who read this and are truly wanting to move towards a way of thinking that allows you to be released from caring how others perceive you and/or want to prioritize how you feel about yourself, study up on ego, mindfulness, and consciousness. If I died tomorrow, I will die knowing that pushing back against my self-serving ego saved my life.