A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Lucky Number Slevin

February 22, 2011

Lucky Number Slevin

It had been many years since I last watched this movie, and the circumstances of my first viewing were such that I didn’t really trust my memory of the film. I watched this movie back when I was managing the North Quincy Blockbuster location over the course of four lunch breaks. It was something I used to do to kill the time while eating lunch – I’d pick out a recent release and watch it in segments. It’s not a recommended way to view a film, and as a result I wasn’t sure just how well this movie worked as a whole. See, the film has three segments and I watched each on a different day so I didn’t know how well it fit together. There’s the hook, where we get a grizzly crime story in the opening that sets up the world of the movie. Then there’s the main body of the movie where we see an unfortunate individual struggling to stay afloat in this nasty world. And finally there’s the reveal, which explains how the two stories fit together and just what exactly has been going on the whole time.

After finally seeing the whole movie in a single sitting tonight I can happily say that it works wonderfully. The story of Sleven, an unlucky schlub who through a case of mistaken identity finds himself caught up in a deadly rivalry between two crime lords, is compelling and fascinating. From the opening story, narrated by a very mysterious Bruce Willis before he kills some random guy in a bus stop, we know just how bloody and dangerous this world is. We know that an innocent family man can be brutally murdered and his entire family as well if he makes the mistake of backing the wrong horse. So we know just how perilous things are for Slevin, which adds a lot of tension to the movie. That tension works in strange contrast to the majority of the film because Slevin is played by Josh Hartnett with a sly wit, and most of the movie is played for comedic effect.

Slevin is caught between a mob boss called “The Boss” and a Jewish crime lord called “The Rabbi” (because he’s a rabbi of course.) There’s a sinister hit man called Goodkat involved as well and a detective named Brikowski trying desperately to make sense of it all. There’s also the mystery of Slevin’s missing friend Nick Fisher, who owes vast sums of money to both mob bosses and for whom Slevin has been mistaken. Trying to figure everything out with Slevin is the neighbor from across the hall from Nick’s apartment, Lindsey, who is a free wheeling adventurous soul who enjoys trying to solve a mystery.

I can’t decide what I like more about this movie: the snappy, quick and clever script by Jason Smilovic or the amazing and brilliant cast. It’s a tragedy that this is Smilovic’s only feature film writing credit, because the script is pure brilliance. The dialog is fast, filled with pop culture references, and delivers both tension and humor in equal parts. That script in turn is brought to brilliant life by the group of ultra-high-caliber actors that make up the cast. Morgan Freeman is as always fantastic – full of gravitas and a slow burning fury as The Boss. His rival, The Rabbi, is played by Ben Kingsley as a caricature, but a sinister one. Kingsley can express so much with just a little gesture or exclemation. He takes a role that was written almost exclusively as parody and gives him an anguished soul. Bruce Willis plays the deadly killer Goodkat with his usual flare. The real stars, though, and the pair that give the most fun and life to the movie, are Josh Hartnett and Lucy Liu. The repartee between Slevin and Lindsey is so spontaneous, so entertaining, and so incongruous in a movie filled with brutal and deadly mob bosses that it wonderfully brings the whole movie to life.

I’m so glad that I own this movie. I’m glad we decided to put it in tonight, and I’m glad that I was able to share it with Amanda. We have so many glaring omissions in our collection (The Big Hit and Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Out of Sight and Get Shorty all leap to mind) that it’s good to know the mob-caper-comedy genre is still in some way represented by a couple movies we own. I could watch Slevin and Lindsey together any day of the week.

February 22, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , ,

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