Review for Revolver (1973)
It’s funny how blinkered we can get sometimes. All my life, I’ve enjoyed the Spaghetti Westerns of Sergio Leone, and while it took me a while to actually watch a few, I did know that there were other Spaghetti Western directors out there, making some serious impact in casting Hollywood actors to lead multi-national and multi-lingual casts in post-dubbed affairs. And for some reason it never occurred to me that this wasn’t the only genre given this treatment. Why can’t there be “Spaghetti” Horror movies, or Thrillers, or Action movies? And that’s where we are with Revolver, a Franco-Italian thriller directed by Sergio Sollima with none other than Oliver Reed in the lead role.
A crime goes wrong, and two criminals go on the run, but one is wounded, and dies in the other’s arms. And in the city, a prominent politician is gunned down in the street by a gunman on a motorcycle, although when a famous pop-star makes a positive identification, it seems like an open and shut case.
Vito Cipriani was a cop, but now he’s settled down to life as a newlywed, he’s taken a job as a vice-warden at a prison. But his bliss doesn’t last long. Called away from his young wife, he returns home to find her missing. Then he gets a phone call. She’s been kidnapped, and the ransom is to have one his prisoners released. Vito will do whatever it takes to get his wife back, but not what the kidnappers are expecting.
Revolver gets a 4k restoration for this release and it tells with the transfer on this Blu-ray. The image is exquisite, an excellent transfer that is detailed, colourful, stable, and properly filmic, with a decent level of grain. The only nits to pick might be in the original source, and that is the odd hair in the shutter in a couple of scenes. You have the choice of PCM 2.0 mono English and Italian, with HOH subtitles for the English track, and translated English subtitles for the Italian track. I went with the English this time, and was momentarily confused at Oliver Reed’s American accent, but given that all the other characters have the same accent, it makes sense. The mono audio is clear, rich and warm which is just what the Ennio Morricone soundtrack demands.
The 2000 copies of the first run release of Revolver will come with o-card slipcover packaging, and a Collector’s booklet. The disc will still be the same thereafter though.
On the disc you’ll find the following extras...
Audio Commentary by Barry Forshaw and Kim Newman
Steven Thrower on Revolver (21:59)
Tough Girl – Interview with Paola Pitagora (10:21)
Action Man – Archival Interview with Fabio Testi (17:07)
English Credits (6:23)
Original Theatrical Trailer (3:40)
International Trailer (1:55)
Radio Spots (1:33)
I wasn’t sure of what to expect when I started watching Revolver, and I have to say that it didn’t disappoint, delivering a thriller that was unlike any film I have seen before. It’s certainly a delight to discover something new, and that should be reason enough to recommend Revolver. It doesn’t hurt that it’s a really good film. Comparisons are made to Death Wish, and Charles Bronson, while I can see elements of it that would show up in the 48 Hours movies too, but it really is its own animal, and if you go into it expecting some Hollywood lightness, and shallow emotion, you’re doing it wrong.
It starts off with what seem like a couple of non sequiturs. The start of the film feels like more of an ending, with a petty thief taking his mortally wounded partner and trying to escape the police. The man winds up dying in the thief’s arms, which in any other film would feel like a conclusion. Then there is the assassination of a politician by a gunman on a motorcycle. The next scene sees a pop-star summoned by the police, confirming that the wrecked motorbike used to belong to him, and the mangled corpse in the morgue, the friend he gave the bike to, also the assassin. Once more it feels like a conclusion.
It’s only then that we meet the protagonist of the film, Vito Cipriani, in what is the sexiest scene I have seen in a long time, a young wife standing on the shoes of her husband, as they walk to the bedroom, disrobing all the way; all of this shot from the knees down. It certainly makes a lasting impression. Vito’s joy is short-lived though, as his wife is kidnapped, and the kidnappers demand the release of one of his prisoners. He’d be breaking the law to do so, but his wife’s safety takes precedence. But he can’t get away from his policeman’s instinct, and his initial reflex is to avenge himself on the kidnappers. And naturally, he thinks that the prisoner they want released is in on it.
The opening sequences begin to make sense when you learn that the prisoner is the petty criminal from the opening scene, and Cipriani is unsubtle in demanding the truth from him, But this criminal, Milo Ruiz has no idea why anyone would want him freed, although he’s more than willing to take advantage of the warden’s offer in letting him go. It’s a ruse on Cipriani’s part though, and he quickly recaptures Ruiz, to make use of him to find the kidnappers and get his wife back. Things quickly get complicated, and spiral out of control.
Cipriani (Reed) is a barely restrained ball of fury, focused rage and determination, something Oliver Reed was ideal for. Ruiz on the other hand is more of a happy-go-lucky playboy type, not taking things too seriously, and at first the two can barely stand each other. But as the search for Cipriani’s wife unfolds, the two begin to respect each other, and even form a friendship. It’s this that has the feel of 48 Hours, and you do wind up hoping for a positive conclusion.
But Revolver is a film from the seventies, a far more cynical time, and there are political overtones to the film that take it in a bleak and dark direction. These are two of the little people, pitted against forces that they can’t comprehend, let alone deal with. Both men go on journeys in the film, the redemption of the corrupt, and the corruption of the morally upright. The conclusion of the film is dark and chilling, and even heart-breaking to a degree.
Revolver is a film that doesn’t pull any punches. It has a pace to it, and a cast of entertaining characters, and deftly makes you hope for the best for them, before cruelly pulling the rug from under you. In any other film I’d feel cheated, but Revolver is so accomplished that it makes you feel grateful for its nihilistic reversals. Eureka have come up trumps again with a great transfer, and some excellent features. Revolver is well worth a watch.