Lucky Number Slevin (The Weinstein Company, R)

Equal parts done equally well, making for an enthralling couple of hours in the movie theater.

 

With a cast that includes Morgan Freeman, Ben Kingsley, Stanley Tucci, Bruce Willis, and Josh Hartnett, it would have been a real feat to create a film that was not good. But Lucky Number Slevin goes beyond merely good. It is one of those rare, wonderful movies that manages to be equal parts mystery, action, comedy, and character study. Equal parts done equally well, making for an enthralling couple of hours in the movie theater.

The film starts out with the murders of a couple of book keepers by an unknown killer, then bounces abruptly to a mostly abandoned bus station where Willis’ Mr. Goodkat relates the tale of a fixed horse race gone bad and the consequences for crossing powerful crime lords. Jump to New York and Slevin (Hartnett), who very well might be the unluckiest man on the planet. Mistaken for his friend, Nick, in whose apartment Slevin is staying, Slevin becomes the target of two crime lords to whom Nick owes money. The first, The Boss (Freeman) is willing to forgive the debt if Slevin murders the son of the second, The Rabbi (Kingsley). The Rabbi, somewhat more reasonably, just wants his money. And the police, led by Detective Brikowski (Tucci), want to know just who Slevin is and what he is up to.

From the get go, it is obvious that nothing is what it seems, and no one is being completely honest with anyone else, or maybe even with themselves. What is not so obvious is how Slevin is going to get out of the twisted mess with only the aid of Nick’s neighbor, Lindsey (Lucy Liu, in a sweet performance that is almost a polar opposite from the roles with which she is typically associated).

While the basic plot may seem similar to other films, it is the spirit of Lucky Number Slevin that sets it apart from the rest. There is an aspect of fun to it that resonates in all the performances. Perhaps that is due even more to the dialogue provided by screenwriter Jason Smilovic than it is to the quality of the actors performing it. There is an almost rhythmic quality to the dialogue that mimics the dance the characters are all doing around one another.

The finishing touch is Paul McGuigan’s direction. He is able to combine the substance of the script and talent of the actors with the style of the setting to create a film that, while having similar elements to others, has a feeling all of its own. He obviously knew when he needed to be hands on and when he should step back and let others create. It’s that unique talent that helps create rare films like this one.

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