March 13, 2006

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Lucky Number Slevin (R)
reviewed by Amy Diaz

Lucy Liu pirouettes, Bruce Willis slinks and Josh Harnett shucks and jives in the all-singing, all-dancing crime spectacular Lucky Number Slevin.

That nobody actually sings or dances is a small miracle because the movie does everything else to keep you entertained and too busy with all the showmanship to harp on how parts of the story are either silly or don’t make sense. But hey, you might get lucky and not notice the film’s bigger failings until it’s over.

Luck is not something granted to Slevin (Hartnett). A series of misfortunes (lost job, unfaithful girl) brings him to his friend Nick’s (Sam Jaeger) apartment in New York City. Slevin makes himself at home and is already showered and looking for something to wear when bouncy neighbor Lindsey (Liu) comes fluttering in. She realizes, eventually, that Slevin isn’t Nick but she keeps on conversing, wondering if Nick was involved in foul play and suggesting that they investigate together. After she leaves, Slevin gets another visit, this one from two goons who drag him to the office of The Boss (Morgan Freeman), a crime boss who says Slevin, whom he thinks is Nick, owes him $96,000. Should Slevin have a hard time finding the cash in the next 12 hours, he can get his debt forgiven by agreeing to kill the son of The Rabbi (Ben Kingsley), a rival mob boss who lives in an identical apartment across the street from The Boss.

No sooner does Slevin return from his trip to see The Boss than he is visited by another set of goons who take him to The Rabbi. The Rabbi wants some $30,000 from Nick/Slevin.

And then, slinking around the offices of both, is Goodkat (Bruce Willis). At the beginning of the movie, we see this professional hit man sidle up next to a guy in a bus station (he sidles in a wheelchair; it’s impressive) and snap his neck. What’s his role in Slevin’s assorted problems? We don’t know but we know it can’t be healthy for Slevin.

Watching Lucky Number Slevin is a little bit like watching a kid do a magic trick after you just spent 45 minutes helping her assemble the Amazing Vanish-o Box and applying all of the Mystical Stickers of Wonder. Be awed, the kid says to you in her demanding kid voice. Yes, you think, had I not just spent an hour shoving the rabbit in the secret compartment of the hat, I would indeed be amazed to see its fuzzy ass appear from “nowhere.”

Lucky Number Slevin is not an awful movie, though it did make me feel awfully sorry for all the times I made my parents watch the same magic trick over and over. But it wants you to remember a bunch of little details and keep a bunch of story lines in your head so when the film finally pulls back the curtain and says “voila!” we can be the maximum amount of amazed. Except that the “voila” isn’t that amazing and the movie also sort of reveals it considerably earlier than the last act.

And then there is Josh Hartnett, who is plenty attractive in an earning-his-masters-in-literature way but not exactly crime-caper-action-movie leading man material yet. There is still something about him that looks too much at home in the bedroom scenes and not awake enough during everything else.

Not that he doesn’t try. Hartnett and everyone else in the film seem to be constantly working to produce enough cool to justify all the razzle in their dialogue full of pop culture references and playful gangster posturing. The show they put on is frequently fairly entertaining and the camera angles and pattern-heavy background visuals provide strong support in the overall effort to make the movie seem hipper than it is.

Lucky Number Slevin has bits of gangster fun and bites of good dialogue in it but it’s hardly enough of a sure thing to bet on with your $9 ticket price. C+


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