Friday, November 27, 2009

Execution and intent: "In Bruges" and "Revolver"

I have a terrible head cold, and as a consequence, I seem to be spending the long weekend watching movies. Last night we watched In Bruges, with Colin Farrell, and this afternoon we watched Revolver, with Jason Statham. I knew that Revolver had gotten rather bad reviews and that In Bruges had gotten good reviews. (I even remembered reading that it had been almost criminally misrepresented in its ad campaign.) But, you know, I liked The Transporter and it's not like I'm doing anything with this time other than keeping Kleenex stock on the up-tick. Interestingly, these movies work as a kind of gangster-genre Goofus and Gallant. Although Revolver was released in 2005 in Europe, it didn't make it to the US until March 2008, a month after In Bruges, almost as if the distributors wanted viewers to make that connection.

While there are some overt similarities - both are gangster movies that take place in somewhat imaginary locations, both have accented (to my American ears) leads from the British Isles, neither movie begins at its story's beginning, both have a mysterious and powerful gangster king pulling the strings in the background - the most striking similarity is one of intent. Both movies would like to be a deeply affecting, multifaceted meditation on what it is to be a certain kind of person. In Bruges succeeds at delving into what it is to be a good person, while also being clever, funny, touching, tense, thoughtful, well-crafted and well-acted. Revolver, on the other hand, is like one of those stories you write at summer camp, where each person adds a line and then folds the paper so that the next person can only read the most recent addition before adding their own line. It's confusing, noisy, directionless, and -worst of all- pretentious beyond all reason. It seems to think it's a meditation on ego and personal strength, full of mantras plundered from someone's freshman social studies notes they found on a bus. I've seen Triscuit boxes with more philosophical value.

I have so much I want to say about this, but I'm having trouble constructing coherent sentences due to my head cold/medication situation. I hope Pete will write about this himself. When we finished In Bruges last night, neither of us could really talk about it. It was so dense and funny and sad and strange and wonderful. About a quarter of the way into Revolver, I said to Pete, "This doesn't make any sense." And then one of the characters said, "This doesn't make any sense." I thought, "Oh, okay, this is how it's supposed to be." But it never made any sense. It just kept pushing on and on forever, like a sheep with its head stuck between two slats in a fence.