LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN
Too Cute for Its Own Good
Starring: Josh Hartnett, Bruce Willis,
Ben Kingsley, Morgan Freeman,
and Lucy Liu
Runtime: 104 minutes
Distributor: The Weinstein Co.
Director: Paul McGuigan
Executive Producer: Don Carmody, A. J. Dix and
Producer: Christopher Eberts, Kia Jam,
Robert Kravis, Tyler Mitchell,
Anthony Rhulen, and Chris
Writer: Jason Smilovic
Address Comments To:Bob and Harvey Weinstein
The Weinstein Company
345 Hudson Street, 13th Floor
New York, NY 10014
Phone: (646) 862-3400
Fax: (917) 368-7000
The movie’s spider-web narrative takes a number of twists and turns, and relies on characters’ flashbacks and testimonies that aren’t always reliable. Slevin, played by Josh Hartnett, is mistaken for his friend Nick while crashing at his apartment and so is transported to the headquarters of notorious gangster The Boss (Morgan Freeman). Nick owes a large gambling debt, and The Boss expects Slevin, who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, to pay it off. Assuming that Nick is a “loser” without the ability to pay his debt, Mr. Goodkat (Bruce Willis), a world class assassin, persuades The Boss to force Slevin (in lieu of Nick) to pay off his debt by serving as an accomplice in a murder.
The Boss’s son was allegedly slain by gangster rival The Rabbi (Ben Kingsley), and Slevin is assigned to help The Boss get revenge by knocking off The Rabbi’s homosexual son “The Fairy.” Meanwhile, Slevin has caught the attention of Detective Brikowski (Stanley Tucci), as well as Nick’s beautiful neighbor (Lucy Liu), albeit for different reasons, which further thickens Slevin’s already coagulated circumstances. As the story progresses, however, it becomes difficult to ascertain whether Slevin is entangled in the web, or if he’s the one actually spinning it.
Featured at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, the chic, super-glossy LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN picture doesn’t lack for star power, and boasts fine performances from its big names. As can be expected from an actor of his stature, Morgan Freeman handles his role with atypical grace (despite the cruelty of his character), and Bruce Willis exemplifies the cool-blue tranquility of Mr. Goodkat with naturalness and ease. While not yet as accomplished as their elders, both Josh Hartnett and Lucy Liu likewise perform at a high level. Regrettably, despite having the production budget and stellar cast to excel, the movie doesn’t live up to its potential.
Over 12 years since PULP FICTION, Hollywood still seems infatuated with Tarantino’s mixture of stylized-yet-gory violence and snappy dialogue. LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN is yet another example, and actually uses some of Tarantino’s biggest stars in Willis and Liu. But, while clearly imitating Tarantino’s infamous excesses in vulgarity and violence, LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN’s story, while not bad, isn’t as smart as director Paul McGuigan seems to want its audience to believe. Many of the jokes sprinkled in the dialogue are indeed clever, but evolve into a tiresome smugness as the movie progresses.
Too cute for its own good, LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN also pushes an “anything goes” pagan worldview. The movie has no heroes of which to speak, and is littered with characters motivated by lust, money and revenge. Despite fine acting and high production values, LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN is a movie that lacks a positive, redemptive message or positive characters, and so it will be avoided by media-wise moviegoers.
Too cute, LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN pushes an “anything goes” pagan worldview. With no heroes of which to speak, the movie is littered with characters motivated by lust, money and revenge. Although entertaining, adeptly shot and well-acted, the movie often comes across as a Quentin Tarantino rip-off, and is hampered by graphic violence, filthy language and two brief, graphic sex scenes. Despite fine acting and high production values, this is also a movie that lacks a positive message or positive characters, and will be avoided by media-wise moviegoers.