REPORTER REVIEW: LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN
The guess is a goodly number of moviegoers will like it, though there will be those refrigerator moments -- you know, when you get home, open the fridge and suddenly say to yourself, "Hey, wait a minute!" But no matter how badly the movie cons you, you must admit that the film is stylish as hell with sharp dialogue, a tongue-in-cheek plot and visual and editing razzledazzle.
The Weinstein Co. might have gotten lucky as boxoffice looks promising, especially given a cast headed by Josh Hartnett, Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman and Ben Kingsley. Scottish director Paul McGuigan and writer Jason Smilovic have collaborated on a crime doozy that, after initial confusion, seems to center on a classic case of mistaken identity. A number of killings, a strange scene in an airport between Willis and a sleepy passenger and a flashback to a long-ago horse race inspire that initial confusion. Then the real story takes over with the promise that those early elements will become clear in time.
A fellow named Slevin (Hartnett) comes to New York to visit an old friend. Only the friend has vanished from his apartment. Slevin spends the night, then meets the cute and flirty girl next door, Lindsey (Lucy Liu). But his luck doesn't hold. Two goons show up at the door and absolutely insist their boss wants to see him. He protests that he is not the real occupant of the apartment, but -- more bad luck -- he can't prove his identity since a mugger took his wallet the day before. The Boss (Freeman) claims that the apartment occupant owes him a small fortune. He will forgive the debt if Slevin kills the son of underworld rival Schlomo (Kingsley). While he is contemplating his offer, similar emissaries from Schlomo come to the unlucky apartment and drag him off to see their boss. He is a Jewish gangster who also insists Slevin owes him a lot of money -- and he wants it now. All the while, a shadowy figure, clearly playing both sides against each other, lurks in the background. This would be the notorious assassin Goodkat (Willis).
Nothing, of course, is quite what it seems, which you know all along, but what you do not realize -- and this is the movie's greatest cheat -- is that some scenes are phony. Yes, the filmmakers violate the usual unspoken agreement made with audiences by showing scenes that later turn out never to have occurred. In fairness, from the beginning, the movie claims the ground of utter genre fiction. Characters even chat about other thrillers, movies ranging from James Bond to Hitchcock's "North By Northwest."
Message: Nothing is real here.
LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN
No MPAA rating