film review ***..: ...Lucky Number Slevin... Stacks the Odds
All-Star Cast Makes Dark Comedy an Entertaining Hit
By Yong-yi Zhu
Directed by Paul McGuigan
Written by James Smilovic
Starring Josh Hartnett, Bruce Willis,
Morgan Freeman, Ben Kingsley,
Lucy Liu, Stanley Tucci
A boss, a rabbi, a man in a purple-flowered towel, a cop, a neighbor, an assassin, and a missing friend: sounds like a recipe for total disaster. Yet somehow, this group of misfits comes together in one of the most brilliant films of the year. Director Paul McGuigan pieces together the stories of all those characters to make a dark comedy about a man who just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time — all the time.
Josh Hartnett is Slevin, a young man who just got fired, kicked out of his apartment after finding his girlfriend in bed with another man, and mugged while trying to get to his friend Nick (Sam Jaeger)’s apartment. Nick isn’t even there when he arrives, but that doesn’t faze Slevin, after everything else he’s dealt with that day. Slevin’s misfortune only increases when two rival groups of thugs, led by the Boss (Morgan Freeman) and the Rabbi (Sir Ben Kingsley), come after him because they’ve mistaken him for Nick, who’s accumulated major gambling debts.
First, Slevin meets the Boss, who tells him that instead of paying the money Nick owes, Slevin only needs to avenge the death of Boss’s son by killing the Rabbi’s. However, Slevin then goes to the Rabbi and finds out that if he does not provide the gambling money, he will be terminated. Slevin has two days to do everything — or else. The plot may not sound overly exciting, but this star-studded cast truly brings the movie to life.
Hartnett may be a one-dimensional actor, always exhibiting a kind and somewhat idiotic predisposition in his movies, but this act is perfect for this movie. He plays the part of the confused and helpless Slevin without a hitch.
Bruce Willis is also a magnificent part of the cast. His performance combines a little bit of “Die Hard” with a lot of “The Whole Nine Yards” to create someone cool, calm, and capable of killing at any time. Freeman and Kingsley are fitting as the crime bosses, although Freeman does a better job at being menacing. Unfortunately, both characters are at times stiff, as though they don’t enjoy being crime bosses.
Despite the strong male cast, Lucy Liu somehow manages to steal the show. She is the perky next door neighbor all too eager to be a part of Slevin’s unlucky life. Her enthusiasm brings a whole new facet to the movie, not only adding a love interest for Slevin but also making you laugh harder. I have never seen Liu’s acting better.
The superb acting is crucial, because the movie is designed to be disorienting. We’re never given all the pieces to the plot, and instead constantly wonder what is going on. The sets contributes to this feeling — the hallway walls are patterned with contrasting colors that appear to twist and turn as the camera pans across them. It’s almost as if we’re staring into one of those Magic Eye 3-D pictures when we look at the sets; if we could look closely enough, there might be something there. Somehow, despite this, the film comes out just right.