a critiQal film review Lucky Number Slevin (2006)

Plot: A case of mistaken identity puts Slevin (Hartnett) smack in the middle of a gang war between The Rabbi (Kingsley) and The Boss (Freeman). To top it off, he's being pursued by the infamous assassin Goodkat (Willis)!

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  • ...Hartnett and Liu's bizarre cohesion hooks the viewer and guides them through this surprisingly fun film

I first heard about Lucky Number Slevin a couple of months back, and thought it looked pretty decent. Josh Hartnett getting caught up in a huge case of mistaken identity in a cast that included Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Ben Kingsley and Lucy Liu? Sounded like fun to me.

Then again I was hesitant – Josh seemed better at comedy than he did at drama. 40 Days And 40 Nights was hilarious, but his other roles seemed largely forgettable. True, he had an amazing cast backing him up in this one, but he could still foul it up.

Since I unfortunately caught bits of Hollywood Homicide (2003) years ago, I figured I’d hedge my bets and wait for the DVD. Now that Lucky Number Slevin has hit DVD, however, I had no more excuses, and was happy when Blockbuster® delivered the film to my doorstep. Crossing my fingers, I gave it a shot.

Josh Hartnett is really beginning to impress. His earlier career is full of hits and misses: he followed up Robert Rodriguez’s The Faculty (1998) with the bomb Here On Earth (which starred Chris Klein from American Pie (1999), the guy that seems to prove that even a popular trilogy doesn’t make you a decent actor), just to name one example.

Finally, though, after much ballyhoo over his performance in Black Hawk Down (2002), he was finally cast in a movie that seemed perfect for him: 40 Days And 40 Nights. After seeing that film, most probably thought he would stick to comedies, especially if they tried watching the ridiculous Wicker Park that followed. Instead, he’s delved into different fields, with Lucky Number Slevin and recently released The Black Dahlia.

With Lucky Number Slevin, he is given a chance to combine the talent for comedy he showed in 40 Days with a more action-packed theme. His comedic performance through most of the film really raises the film above the norm. He is able to pull in the viewer’s attention almost immediately, and his dry wit continues to make the viewer chuckle throughout the film. Unfortunately, unless he is able to parlay that humor somehow into The Black Dahlia, his more dramatic roles should be akin to his brief appearance in Sin City (2005) – quick and painless.

Lucy Liu compliments Josh Hartnett extremely well in Lucky Number Slevin. Her character’s never-ending chatter seems to compliment Hartnett’s laid back character perfectly. Their characters seem to epitomize why the saying “opposites attract” became popular in the first place. The scenes between the two of them, especially early on in the film, are laugh out loud funny, and do a great job of drawing in the viewer.

Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Ben Kingsley and Stanley Tucci also put in appearances in Lucky Number Slevin, but they act merely as the backdrop of Hartnett’s character. While they all do decent jobs, no one will ever say these are their defining characters. In fact, there roles seem largely delegated to cookie cutter roles – without much substance to back their characters up. Still, it’s nice to see that they are willing to take a back seat to the younger actors once in a while. And why shouldn’t they? It’s not like this film will make or break any one of them.

While the plot is quite convoluted, Lucky Number Slevin manages to keep the viewer tuned in – and that’s partly due to the rather lighthearted feel of the film. Lucky Number Slevin is one of the first films in a while that manages to mix violence and comedy into a successful whole, while managing to not detract from either. Maybe it’s the lighter music playing in the background, or maybe it’s just that the director is just that good. Whatever the case may be, it definitely makes for a fun film. Added to that is as many twists as the filmmakers can toss in (and have the movie still make sense).

Josh Hartnett really steps up in Lucky Number Slevin. After a disturbing opening sequence, Hartnett and Liu’s bizarre cohesion lifts the mood of the film – and doesn’t let it go until the very end.

By the time Lucky Number Slevin wraps up, the filmmakers will have brought you through so many loops and turns you’ll feel like you were on a roller coaster…and you’ll have enjoyed the ride enough that you’ll probably want to go again.

If you are in the mood for a very dark action-comedy, you should definitely give Lucky Number Slevin a spin.

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