“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 boss. The blood, 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, the hip, hip, hoo-fucking-rah. Look at the clever boy with the badge, polishing his trophy. Shine on, you crazy diamond, because we’re just monkeys wrapped in suits, begging for the approval of others. If we knew this, we wouldn’t do this. Someone is hiding it from us, and if you had a second chance you would ask, why?” – Jake Green, Revolver.
Probably my all-time favourite movie is the lesser known of Guy Ritchie’s films, the slightly odd one that didn’t become a cult classic, Revolver (2005). I’ve watched it so many times, and last night when I was challenged by my own ego (a story for another time), it popped back into my head.
While there are still the typical gangsters, the gore and the violent con men you’d expect from one of Ritchie’s creations, this movie goes much deeper and explores – in the most mind-blowing way – the concept of the ego. Some say it’s about the game of chess, which is referenced quite a lot, but I think it’s far more than that; chess is just part of the metaphor, representing “the game” (aka life). Others say it’s about the devil, but to me that’s the same thing as the ego; the devil doesn’t exist anywhere but in your own mind.
Ego is a bullshit word, much like “love”, which has a different meaning to different people (not that love itself is bullshit). So I’d better clarify. Here, the word “ego” as I use it is to reference our separate, created self, which does not exist and therefore must be continually recreated and propped up with externalities: popularity, money, friendship, approval, admiration, belongings. The only way it can believe itself to be real is through its reflection in other people’s eyes, or by the accumulation of “stuff.”
While the ego loves any form of separateness (it loves religion, for example), this film uses the more typical, better known form of the ego: The money hungry, greedy, revenge-fuelled kind. Oooh yeah.
The whole film is one massive analogy, with main character Jake Green (Jason Statham) battling it out to stay alive (i.e. transcend his own ego) with the “help” of loan sharks Avi (Andre Benjamin) and Zach (Vincent Pastore), who force him to give away all his money or die from the rare blood disease he has, which early in the film causes him to fall down a flight of stairs, poetically tumbling to the sounds of classical music. He has only three days to live.
“Why would I spend my last few days a slave to these two men?”
Avi and Zach, who were in the cells beside Jake’s when he spent seven years in solitary confinement, I believe represent parts of Jake’s inner Self, while fear-driven gang boss Macha (Ray Liotta), is the personification of Jake’s personal ego. Macha has a hit out on Jake and is the guy who caused him to go to prison in the first place. The mysterious Mr Gold seems to be the ego energy which rules the world.
The film is a work of art, and Ray Liotta’s character is incredible. The imagery used is phenomenal, too, with nothing done by halves. There is an animated section in the middle which pops up out of nowhere and is a bit of a mind fuck. It pisses some people off who say it’s “too artsy”, but I think is only there to make you question whether any of it is “real”. And what is real, anyway?
The film is interwoven with Jake Green’s confused, chaotic thoughts, and you’re right there inside his head, almost going crazy along with him. He doesn’t know if he should be doing what Avi and Zach tell him, but he knows he’s got nothing left to lose.
“These sick bastards are making me pay, pay for my own pain.”
“Why are they dragging this on…Why don’t they just clean me out in one hit”
“They want me to suffer.”
I like this movie because it describes so brilliantly what happens when you start to push through to the other side of the ego. You don’t do it out of choice. You do it because you just can’t fucking stand life the way you’ve been doing it – a game, a gamble. It becomes a necessity – a matter of life or death – to just let go of what you’ve tried to hold on to, to realise you’re going the wrong way. But when you do, things get worse before they get better. The whole word is turned upside down and what you once valued more than anything – money, power, cleverness, status, relationships – suddenly have no value at all.
“The greatest con that he ever pulled, was making you believe that he is you” – Avi.