Its good looks are outmatched by the superb cast, all of whom are right on the money. The book is still open on whether Josh Hartnett is more than just a pretty face, but he certainly earns his supper here. Tangoing with greats like Freeman and Kingsley, not to mention Tucci and Willis, Hartnett never misses a beat. This was never going to be an actors’ film - this is a film for playing it cool and delivering lines just so. On that basis, everyone in the cast performs superbly, not least Lucy Liu as the delightfully perky next-door neighbour.
The screenplay by Jason Smilovic might seem, on the surface, like the heart of the film. It’s certainly clever enough, but its also too aware of its own cleverness. There’s a smug, knowing edge to proceedings, like a practical joker who’s just pulled a prank on you and is waiting for you to figure it out. It keeps you interested as long as its going, but afterwards you’re struck by how hollow the whole affair is. Without the pretty visuals and the great cast, this story just wouldn’t fly.
But the screenplay’s biggest fault is its disturbing schizophrenia. It’s sold as a quirky comedy thriller, and it certainly starts out like one. But, about halfway through, it suddenly takes a turn for the morbid and never looks back. Playing the hard-bitten gangster angle is fine, just don’t sell us the cheeky comedy caper first.
Whatever its faults, Lucky Number Slevin can hardly be considered a failure. It has a verve and a cocky swagger that are hard to dislike, even if a lot of its boasts are empty. It may be brutal and callous, but what else can you expect from a gangster film? This is pulp entertainment, plain and simple. It exists only to consume itself, setting itself on fire so that we can enjoy the spectacle of watching it burn to ashes.
- Alistair Fairweather
Lucky Number Slevin is a bit like Hollywood itself. It's witty, stylish and full of great actors. It's also shallow, smug and a little too derivative.
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