Lucky Number Slevin Movie Review
"Lucky Number Slevin" features an all-star cast in a strange crime comedy of sorts, even though in many ways it is neither strange nor a comedy. Bruce Willis, Josh Hartnett, Morgan Freeman and Sir Ben Kingsley star in this film about rival gangsters, a ruthless hit man and one unlucky man named Slevin who is caught in the middle.
The craftily-edited and -directed movie begins with the bloody killing of a young boy's family, after the father suddenly finds himself to owe large to a gangster after losing a bet on a horse race. While it is never explained why the father is killed seconds after coming to owe the money, the sequence sets the stage for the rest of the film - a.k.a. you know the young boy will return at some point. We are introduced to the world of The Cat (Willis), an elusive hit man who kills based on the highest bidder. And then we are introduced to Slevin (Hartnett), who is in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Having showed up at his friend's condo only to find him not there, he quickly comes in contact with a couple of gangsters looking to recover $93,000 in debt. Mistaking Slevin as his friend, they take him before The Boss (Freeman), who in exchange for wiping the debt free wants Slevin to murder The Rabbi's son. The Rabbi (Kingsley), who curiously lives right next door in an opposing building, also wants debt collection from Slevin, and so the game is on. Slevin must figure out how to kill The Rabbi's son while repaying the Rabbi's money while avoiding the police (Stanley Tucci) while escaping the gun of The Cat, who seems to have something to do with everything.
So is "Lucky Number Slevin" a comedy? From the plot, it sure doesn't seem so. The movie is bloody and at times ruthless, and the third act is definitely violent. Nevertheless, "Lucky Number Slevin" starts off brilliantly, as it easily tackles serious crime with witty, laugh-out-loud dialogue. Hartnett is terrific in delivering deadpan commentary, and has some great exchanges with Freeman near the beginning. The two certainly seem to be having fun, as does Kingsley who also gets to throw dialogue back and forth with Hartnett.
The movie, full of complex relationships and plots, definitely plays out like a crime comedy, as some of the situations are so outrageous (in a good way) that it's hard not to laugh. Still, the movie takes a turn for the deadly serious in the third act, erasing any suggestions that this movie is indeed a comedy.
The plot twist is a big one and a well done one at that, but it changes the theme of the movie so much that it feels like there are two separate films packaged together. Handled a little more graciously it might have worked, but the change seemed a bit jarring to me. More so, the twist is revealed too early on in the picture to really provide a punch - the removal of one specific scene (the murder of the Rabbi's son) could have fixed all that. Having edited out just a few seconds could have made the twist all the more impressive.
"Lucky Number Slevin" suffers from genre identity crisis, but otherwise stands up pretty well. The cast is at the top of their game, and the screenplay is witty and smart. Those looking for a gruesome "crime comedy" should take enjoyment in this picture, as I did.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.