A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 359 – Lucky Number Slevin

Lucky Number Slevin – February 22nd, 2011

There is a trick with noir-type thrillers and mysteries where even when you know what sort of movie they are you still don’t know precisely how they will twist and turn and set everything up. And so reviewing them becomes difficult, because the fun in the movie is in the discovery. Now, for me, that discovery often takes place when I read a synopsis or spoilers. See, I don’t mind spoilers. At all. Andy hates them and I can understand why, but there’s a part of me that’s been so annoyed with so many “twist” endings in the past that I like to know what I’m getting into. If it sounds good, I stick with it. If it sounds bad I check out. Saves me emotional investment in something that will piss me off.

So I read a bit about this movie and while it gave me the cold hard facts, it didn’t really tell me how everything would go down. The plot points, yes. The performances, no. And the plot points sounded interesting enough that I wanted to see how the performances sold them and I would like to state for the record that the performances sold them very well indeed. This is a story of mob bosses and crime and bookies and assassinations and mistaken identity and vengeance. It’s all very cleverly done without much slight of hand at all, really. There’s something important missing for most of the movie, but otherwise it’s all there, plain to see. I like that.

It helps the movie that the main character, Slevin, is played by Josh Hartnett with an affable demeanor that you can’t help smiling at. He comes off as just the unluckiest guy ever and while yes, it fazes him a little, mostly he just seems resigned to it. After all, what the hell can he do, right? He has no ID and two rival gangs think he’s this other guy, Nick, and Nick owes them both a good deal of money. He can’t prove he’s not Nick, and Nick is nowhere to be found. Meanwhile, there’s a mysterious hitman named Goodkat who seems to have his fingers in both pies. Clearly, it’s a set-up. So when the Boss, leader of one gang, tells Slevin to do him a favor and he’ll count Nick’s debt paid off, Slevin reluctantly agrees. And he’s so calm about it, you know he’s got a trick up his sleeve because the favor is to kill the Boss’s rival’s son in retaliation for his own son’s death, which he believes his rival had a hand in. And the rival, the Rabbi? He’s been talking to Slevin too. He wants his money.

And the whole time Slevin is in Nick’s apartment, because he thought he was going to be staying with Nick but clearly Nick isn’t there and the only person who is there is Nick’s neighbor, Lindsey. And Lindsey seems to be a regular Nancy Drew and is hot on the case of Nick’s disappearance. Slevin and Lindsey get friendly and Slevin explains to her what’s going on and he’s just so very blown away by it. After all, what a coincidence! What a horrible coincidence. The two of them give this movie the tone it has. Because when you’re in the penthouses with the Boss (Morgan Freeman) and the Rabbi (Ben Kingsley) or the surveillance van where detective Brikowski (Stanley Tucci) is keeping an eye on all? When you’re seeing Goodkat (Bruce Willis) idly snap the neck of someone he’s talking to? This is a very dark movie indeed with very bad stuff happening. But when you’re watching Slevin and Lucy Liu as Lindsey chat in Nick’s apartment, trying to work through what’s going on and just how Slevin’s going to get out of it? It takes on a decidedly different tone of very dark but very funny humor. Their interactions are fun and full of chemistry. They banter, which is fantastic, and you get a good feel for both of them.

Now, if I was going to spoil the movie and go into the specifics of how it’s all worked out, I could probably do some armchair analysis of a couple of characters’ psyches and go into my one quibble with the movie. But I’m not going to. The synopsis is out there. I found it easily enough. What I will say is that there’s a particular plot point near the end which I felt cheapened things a bit, but having read about the alternative, I agree it would have been too dark. It would have been nice if there had been some middle ground, but there wasn’t. But it doesn’t take away from the cleverness or the wit or the humor or the crime or the vengeance. Because even with that bit, the performances still sell it.

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

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