director: Paul McGuigan
starring: Josh Hartnett, Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Ben Kingsley, Lucy Liu, Stanley Tucci
Further proof that Hollywood marketing execs have absolutely no idea what they’re doing, Lucky Number Slevin is a wildly enjoyable film that made next to nothing at the box office (~$22.5M). I attribute this to the trailers and ads put out for the movie, making Slevin seem like another run-of-the-mill action flick. Instead of focusing on the talent involved and the off-beat angle of the story, they chose instead to highlight gunfights and explosions. How original. I mean, look at the poster over on the left. That concept’s been done to death. “Just slap every single actor on the one-sheet and mega box office will ensue, right? We can’t miss!” [ad execs high-five each other and bump chests]
Well, that’s why I’m here. Stop watching that Sanford & Son rerun and get to the video store to pick Lucky Number Slevin up. It’s got just about everything you want in a movie: comedy, action, drama, great acting, great direction and a bit of the old sexy-time (“A-very nice!”). I’d never heard of director Paul McGuigan before this movie (a quick IMDB check yields a roster of seven movies I’ve never heard of and a forthcoming job directing the highly anticipated, ahem, film adaptation of The Equalizer), but he did an outstanding job. As I’ve said in the past reviews, I have a very hard time writing about direction in concrete terms, other than to say “you know it when you see it.” Well, I saw it and I know it and I like it.
When did Josh Hartnett become a great actor? He more than held his own with the likes of Freeman, Kingsley and Willis, and was a pleasant surprise that made the movie all the more enjoyable. His quirky portrayal of Slevin has a high degree of subtlety, and despite some plainly slapstick moments for the character, Hartnett deftly handles the job of creating a fully-realized character. Does that last sentence sound as pretentious as it does to me? Anyway… As you’d expect, all of the aforementioned actors, in addition to Lucy Liu and Stanley Tucci, are fantastic. As good as the script is (it’s not great), they all take it to another level. Slevin, in terms of its story, becomes predictable at a certain point early on, but the talent involved is such that the story almost becomes secondary to simply enjoying the ride. With lesser actors involved, Slevin would probably rate a C or lower in my book.
I realize I’ve gotten to the end of the review and haven’t really told you what the film’s about. What, my high praise isn’t enough for you to just see it on good faith? How dare you. Lucky Number Slevin’s about a case of mistaken identity that leads to a rapidly-escalating series of events resulting in sex, gunshots, death, revenge and a bit of the old Kansas City Shuffle (which would also be a wholly appropriate title for the film, as you’ll find out). … Alright, maybe I was being too hard on those Hollywood ad execs. “Just see the movie, dammit.” Put that on the poster.