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Overall Rating
3.97

Awesome: 3.33%
Worth A Look90%
Average: 6.67%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 0%

3 reviews, 12 user ratings


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You Kill Me
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by Peter Sobczynski

"John Dahl Is Finally Back On Target"
4 stars

After the likes of “Grosse Pointe Blank,” “Analyze This” and, of course, the recently departed “The Sopranos,” you would think that anyone trying to come up with a dark comedy about a mobster attempting to go into therapy in order to quell his demons would be hard-pressed to find a fresh angle to work from. In the case of the new dark comedy “You Kill Me,” the filmmakers haven’t really found a new approach but they tackle the familiar material with such gleeful zest, thanks in no small part to an extremely game cast, that I didn’t mind that there wasn’t anything on display that I hadn’t already before in one form or another.

Ben Kingsley stars as Frank Falenczyk, a hitman working for a Polish mob family that is locked in mortal combat with a rival Irish faction for whatever small pieces of Buffalo that they can still claim. A once-fearsome killer, Frank has become a listless alcoholic and when he blows a vitally important hit on the head of the Irish mob (Dennis Farina), his boss (Philip Baker Hall) stages an intervention and gives him a choice–go out to San Francisco and dry out or. . .well, you can imagine the other choice. Reluctantly, Frank goes out west and a creepy family compatriot (Bill Pullman) gets him an apartment, a job in a funeral home and enlists him in an AA program. At first, Frank resists everything but after meeting flaky babe Laurel (Tea Leoni) at work, he begins to pull himself together. The road to recovery, as we all know, is not an easy one and Frank has his share of missteps–some ordinary, such as when he has a major slip at an Irish wake and misses a date with Laurel, and some out of the ordinary, such as when the Irish begin making moves back east to wipe out his family once and for all.

“You Kill Me” was directed by John Dahl, the director who started out so promisingly with such darkly humorous neo-noirs as “Red Rock West” and the great “The Last Seduction” before drifting off into such by-the-numbers nonsense as “Rounders” and “Joy Ride.” Although “You Kill Me” doesn’t quite hit the peaks of “Red Rock West” or “The Last Seduction,” there is a zip to the proceedings that he hasn’t been seen in his work since those early triumphs. Perhaps he was jazzed to be directing a screenplay that relied more on quirky humor and oddball characters than any standard-issue plot mechanics. In fact, while he handles the few action-oriented scenes with an uncommon grace and skill, he really comes alive when it comes to the comedic material. There are a lot of big laughs on hand here–ranging from one-liners (“If I wanted to back a losing team, I’d buy the Sabres” to sustained set-pieces (the moment when Frank finally confesses all to his support group is perhaps the most hilarious on-screen AA meeting since Divine joined the program in “Polyester”)–and Dahl finds a nice off-center approach to the humor that meshes perfectly with the material.

What finally pushes “You Kill Me” over the top are the inspired performances from the uniformly excellent cast. It is no secret, I suppose, to say that Ben Kingsley has been largely coasting on his laurels for the last few years with the occasional strong performances in films like “House of Sand and Fog” and “Oliver Twist” being overwhelmed by such lazy paycheck turns in dross like “Thunderbirds,” “A Sound of Thunder” and the infamous “BloodRayne.” His work here, on the other hand, is not only his best work since “Sexy Beast” but may well be one of the finest of his entire career–he is clearly having a blast as Frank and that joy of performance can be seen in every scene. In smaller roles, such reliable players as Dennis Farina, Philip Baker Hall and Bill Pullman are so entertaining that entire movies could be spun off based on their advenutres. (Pullman’s sleazo turn, in particular, may well be the tastiest thing he has ever done in a film) Hell, even Tea Leoni, an actress who usually inspires in me the kind of reaction one normally associates with hearing fingernails on a chalkboard, is a sexy and charming wonder as Frank’s potential salvation. Watching the two of them trading barbs and bon mots back and forth, you can see the sparks bouncing between them and they make such an inspired match that I hope that someone hits upon the idea of pairing them up in another romantic comedy as soon as possible. I don’t know whose idea it was to take a shot on the two of them as a couple but the result, like many of the shots on display in “You Kill Me,” turns out to be a bulls-eye.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=16202&reviewer=389
originally posted: 06/22/07 14:32:59
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 CineVegas Film Festival For more in the 2007 CineVegas Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/19/14 PAUL SHORTT SMART, CHARMING BLACK COMEDY, WITH A GREAT STAR PERFORMANCE 4 stars
8/11/12 Bobby Leoni and Kingsley are a marvel and by themselves make the film worth watching 4 stars
8/02/11 brian Intriguing concept, some very funny moments, but wildly uneven. 3 stars
9/03/08 Jennifer Definitely worth a watch, it is subtle humor. Just shy of being seriously great. 4 stars
6/23/08 mr.mike It was good , the Irish wake scene was priceless. 4 stars
4/20/08 jcjs AA works...fun time 4 stars
2/06/08 damalc kingsley, leoni, pullman: how bad can it be? really quirky and funny 4 stars
10/24/07 William Goss Solid ensemble makes familiar hitman-with-problems story a enjoyably deadpan one. 4 stars
7/17/07 Elizabeth Doesn't quite work for me. 3 stars
7/16/07 Old Clyde Most entertaining film I seen so far this summer 5 stars
7/14/07 Ole Man Bourbon Yeah, it's quite fun. Awesome cast. 4 stars
7/10/07 Georgi Petrov A nice movie, pretty entertaining. 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  22-Jun-2007 (R)
  DVD: 09-Oct-2007

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