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Overall Rating

Awesome: 13.64%
Worth A Look36.36%
Average: 13.64%
Pretty Bad: 13.64%
Total Crap: 22.73%

6 reviews, 30 user ratings

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Lucky Number Slevin
[] Buy posters from this movie
by PaulBryant

"Lively tales about deadly deeds."
4 stars

As the latest constituent in the agonizingly dense empire of action/crime pictures, the dreadfully titled Lucky Number Slevin is a uniquely good movie that almost becomes a great one by virtue of its ability to cater to the tastes of two very disparate types of audience member. First, those folks who recklessly swarm to action/crime flicks (mostly for the simple pleasure afforded by calculating how many sanguineous corpses the shotgun-wielding hero can fell) will lap up enough gooey redness and stylish whackings to pronounce Lucky Number Slevin “wicked.” And those non-hip folks who don’t go to many pictures of the action/crime variety (and tend to sneer at the rapid-fire-conditioned drones who follow their genitals toward flicks like this year’s Running Scared) will appreciate the cutting humor that makes Slevin’s admittedly sizable body count a satirical delight.

Whatever group you may fall into, you’ll soon realize that the best thing going for Lucky Number Slevin hasn’t anything to do with shiny guns or pooling blood, but rather its consistent showcase of superb storytelling; not only in the superb manner director Paul McGuigan has filmed his outrageous fable, but in the way each character (as played by each great actor) is given the chance to have at least one scene where they let loose and spin a nice yarn. The film itself is a resplendent jumble of flashbacks, layered conversations which reference each other and echo the classic Hollywood thrillers of yesteryear, and hilariously serious voiceover narration – all of which are written in a Mamet-meets-Hammett patois and filmed in the manner of Tarantino-mocking-Scorsese.

The movie centers around a certain Slevin (as played by an shockingly animated Josh Hartnett), a young, laidback, chiseled type, who catches his girlfriend sleeping with another man and is then coaxed out to New York by an old chum called Nick Fisher. He dutifully arrives at Fisher’s apartment, and comes in contact first with a bouncy neighbor (Lucy Liu), and later a couple of distinct bad guys - black bad guys that is, who want Slevin, whom they think is Fisher, to come with them to see “The Boss”; or in other words, Morgan Freeman. The Boss thinks Slevin owes him a pile of cash racked up in gambling debts, and so he orders him to kill the son of his arch nemesis, “The Rabbi” (Ben Kingsley), after which all debts will be cleared. Kingsley’s son is a homosexual - who, in keeping with the film’s fondness for abject stereotypes, is dubbed “The Fairy” - whom The Boss wants dead in revenge for his own son’s death for which The Boss assumes The Rabbi was responsible. Phew. Mr. Slevin may not be so lucky after all, we think.

Thus begins the switchback narrative of mistaken identity. Next, Slevin (or is it Fisher? or is Fisher real?) is taken to see The Rabbi, who lives atop an identical penthouse on the other side of a posh New York throughway. It seems the rivals were once dear friends who operated in the New York gambling racket, but the assassination of Freeman’s son has driven a wedge between the two, and The Rabbi wants Slevin to whack The Boss. Now Slevin's working both sides, trying to figure out how to kill or be killed and, ironically, how to kill or be killed. If Hustle and Flow taught us last year how hard is it “out here” for a pimp, then Lucky Number Slevin seems to want us to see how hard it is “out here” for a twice-hired-assassin. Of course, Slevin isn’t exactly an expert at killing, which makes the film's revenge-epic style rather amusing, but then veteran shoot-em-upper Bruce Willis enters stage right and reminds us some killers still have granite jaws and eyes of titanium. His character, dubbed Mr. Goodkat, has been there, killed that, and might just be using the two New York kingpins as pawns in his own mysterious game of murderousness.

In any case, Stanley Tucci shows up as a hard-ass cop, and Lucy Lui is remarkably funny and likable as the neighbor who turns out to work in the local morgue, and both help vault Lucky Number Slevin past the minutiae of regular crime-flick machinations and into a rousing interplay between fine actors. And it’s about time, for non-god’s sake, that we got a movie where a bunch of great actors get up and read a bunch of fun, silly, intelligent dialogue, and actually appear to have a blast while they do it. The actors have glimmers in their eyes, and exude McGuigan’s energetic spirit behind the camera as well as Jason Smilovic’s talent with the pen.

In fact, it’s Smilovic’s script that would be easiest to overlook amid the great actors and great set pieces (the production design by Francois Seguin seems to want to upstage everything Dante Ferretti did in Casino), especially as it would seem tempting to compare the writing to one of Quentin Tarantino’s exercises in kitsch. Yes, the characters do reference old movies like James Bond and North By Northwest, but Smilovic doesn’t do it indiscriminately, or just to be cute. He mentions North By Northwest because the theme of personal identity is constantly in question, and includes James Bond because of how absurd those Bond films are with their larger-than-life villains and guiltless romps in the bedroom. More than that, though, the dialogue is playful and intriguing, as each character seems to be maneuvering with a hidden agenda while he talks in an intoxicating kind of political double-speak.

Not many movies are as good at taking one on an exciting ride without making the passenger feel too guilty about enjoying the passing parade of stacked corpses and stalwart stereotypes. One could get mad at how the film seems to gradually make an argument that the preservation of the WASPish, American nuclear family is a worth all sorts of loss of life (loss which is almost exclusively contained to ethnic, religious, and sexual minorities), but then one would have to briefly consult the movie’s poster and remind themselves the title is Lucky Number Slevin, and that the “L” in "Slevin" is an upside-down, backwards “7”.

At that point, to take the movie seriously would be like approaching North By Northwest in the same grim temperament produced by Hitchcock’s other mistaken-identity essay, The Wrong Man; which is to say, you’d be seeing in black-and-white when you should be dreaming in Technicolor.

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originally posted: 04/09/06 07:47:59
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2006 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Philadelphia Film Festival For more in the 2006 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/13/17 morris campbell good not great 4 stars
6/22/09 Beefsolver Transparently derivative. Uneven results. Beef solved. 3 stars
11/26/08 Shaun Wallner Laughed my ass off! 5 stars
3/05/08 JLH Very good flim... 4 stars
9/22/07 Steve Newman I loved this film - go see 4 stars
5/30/07 Piz an 0-2 pitch high and outside ... a waste! 2 stars
3/15/07 Matt A strong cast is wasted on this overly complicated pile of cinematic effluent. 1 stars
10/29/06 JeromeBosch Elaborate, intelligent and satisfying. Excellent! 5 stars
10/24/06 Indrid Cold Great dialogue + decent story = above average. Hey, I liked it more than Pulp Fiction. 4 stars
10/22/06 Dillon A mindgame worth playing. 4 stars
10/11/06 jagnet I thought this was very entertaining. One for the collection 5 stars
10/05/06 Jordan Whoever wrote that review is a moron! It was incredible. 5 stars
10/03/06 Agent Sands One of the most brilliant scripts ever written. Dialogue & story are both refreshingly new! 5 stars
9/22/06 Alyssa Hale It has a good story which is developed well through the movie. 4 stars
9/21/06 matt enjoyable but VERY predictable 4 stars
9/17/06 ad entertaining 4 stars
8/24/06 Ali Junaid Hayat It is a good story. 3 stars
5/26/06 Regina George didn't really survive the school bus accident Possibly the best amoral contorted thriller since A FISH CALLED WANDA. 5 stars
4/30/06 David Pearson Superb well told entertaining crime story 5 stars
4/29/06 Agent Sands Riveting, Oldboy-style refresher. 5 stars
4/28/06 Ahmed Kazikian Good movie. Stop bashing it, and pay attention; you'll enjoy it. Not a masterwork, but fun. 5 stars
4/23/06 Yvonne I thought the movie was very good. It could have been better, but overall it was good. 4 stars
4/16/06 mr.mike thumbs up 4 stars
4/13/06 San Lamar Entertaining Action Flick 4 stars
4/12/06 the reader lame and derivative, all hype and boring to sit through 1 stars
4/08/06 Steve Michaud Enjoyable blending of Hitchcock and Tarantino 4 stars
4/08/06 jasq hit man with a heart of gold. 3 stars
1/28/06 xtc at least the movie has wallpaper going for it. 2 stars
1/24/06 Ellen James Very violent! Too much gore and not enough plot. Mystery that was figured out in 15 min.! 2 stars
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  07-Apr-2006 (R)
  DVD: 12-Sep-2006



[trailer] Trailer

Directed by
  Paul McGuigan

Written by
  Jason Smilovic

  Josh Hartnett
  Ben Kingsley
  Bruce Willis
  Morgan Freeman
  Lucy Liu
  Stanley Tucci

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