Lucky Number Slevin Review

This review doesn't explicitly spoil the plot of Lucky Number Slevin but it contains criticisms that may help you guess the outcome.

The problem is I've seen too many "twist" movies. You know what I'm talking about: films that hinge on a big surprise revelation in the final act. Ever since The Sixth Sense cleaned up at the box office, there's been a boom in the genre. There have been so many that I've become immune to them: they can't surprise me anymore. Once a film tips me off that there's a twist coming, I can guess it every time, no matter how cleverly the filmmakers think they're concealing it.

Lucky Number Slevin tipped me off during an early scene in which a hitman played by Bruce Willis tells another character a story about something that happened in 1979. I think we're supposed to dismiss it as a colourful vignette that has nothing to do with anything else but the flashback Willis narrates is so elaborate, so emotionally involving and so lavishly produced that experienced moviegoers will instantly recognise a set-up that's designed to pay off later in the film. Willis may as well wink at the camera and whisper, "Look out for the twist!" Once you know that and you've seen the flashback, it doesn't take too much brainwork to figure out the rest.

This movie, a darkly humourous thriller, is ostensibly about a case of mistaken identity. Slevin (Josh Hartnett) is a young man visiting a friend in New York City. His visit gets off to a bad start when he's robbed on the street by a mugger who breaks his nose. Things perk up a bit when he arrives at his friend's apartment and he's greeted by a sexy neighbour called Lindsey (Lucy Liu), who practically throws herself at him.

No sooner has Lindsey left, after arranging a dinner date for later, then there's a knock at the door and two large, unsmiling black men barge in. Refusing to believe Slevin is not the apartment owner (his wallet was stolen when he was mugged), they escort him downtown in only a towel to meet The Boss (Morgan Freeman), a powerful gangster. Slevin's friend apparently owes $96,000 to The Boss but he's willing to write off the debt if Slevin will do a job for him. The job involves murdering the gay son of a rival gangster, as revenge for a hit on The Boss's own son.

Dropped back at his apartment, Slevin has barely registered what's happened when there's another knock at the door and this time he opens it to find two large, unsmiling Hassidic Jews. They escort him downtown to the building directly opposite The Boss's place, where he meets The Rabbi (Ben Kingsley... excuse me, Sir Ben Kingsley - that's how he's billed!). The Rabbi is the rival gangster whose gay son Slevin has been instructed to kill. And, wouldn't you know it, Slevin's friend owes $33,000 to The Rabbi too.

The rest of the story concerns how Slevin deals with his situation, how The Boss and The Rabbi resolve their feud, why assassin Mr Goodkat (Bruce Willis) is working both sides of the street, what "unfinished business" Goodkat has with Slevin, how cop Stanley Tucci is involved and how it all relates to that story at the beginning of the film.

Unfortunately, these strands don't all snap together as precisely as screenwriter Jason Smilovic thinks they do. Once you have all the answers, you'll find yourself asking some tough questions, such as why does one character concoct such a tortuous scheme to get himself access to certain other characters when he has an accomplice who already has access to those people? If you see what I mean. I'm trying to write this review without including major spoilers. It's not easy!

The big secret is underwhelming whether or not you can guess it in advance and the film overexplains it. Director Paul McGuigan shoots himself in the foot by slowing the pace down to fill in unnecessary details just as the film should be reaching a climax. The ending is also amazingly neat and tidy, considering what a dark story this is. It reminded me a little of last month's Paul Walker thriller Running Scared, which contained astonishing levels of cruelty and depravity, only to end as conventionally as a Lethal Weapon sequel. These films are happy to imitate Tarantino's characters, his dialogue, his violence and his shocking black comedy but for some reason they draw the line at his unpredictable plotting.

Lucky Number Slevin may be less than the sum of its parts but a few of those parts are impressive enough to just about carry it. Jason Smilovic's script has some good lines, which are delivered with style by the excellent cast. Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman and especially Ben... Sir Ben Kingsley are all on good form. Josh Hartnett may seem a little lightweight in such company but he doesn't disgrace himself. The movie is very well directed by Scotsman Paul McGuigan. He previously directed Hartnett in Wicker Park, another "twist" movie that passed the time but didn't amount to a whole lot. One of these days McGuigan will get hold of a script that's worthy of his talent.



out of 10

Last updated: 27/05/2018 07:08:27

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