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Lucky Number Slevin

2006-12-31 11:05

A case of mistaken identity lands Slevin (Josh Hartnett) into the middle of a war being plotted by two of the city's most rival crime bosses; The Rabbi (Ben Kingsley) and The Boss (Morgan Freeman). Slevin is under constant surveillance by relentless Detective Brikowski (Stanley Tucci) as well as the infamous assassin Goodkat (Bruce Willis) and finds himself having to hatch his own ingenious plot to escape the maze alive.


Lucky Number Slevin is a puzzle, in more ways than one. There’s the smart alec plot, of course, which does a good job of keeping us intrigued for all 110 of its minutes. But the really puzzling thing is how the film takes such familiar material and makes it seem so fresh.

Literally every aspect of the film is derived from somewhere else in movieland. From the snappy Pulp Fiction-style dialogue, to the elaborate twist ala The Usual Suspects, to the gangster lore ala Goodfellas, we’ve seen it all before. Then there’s the casual violence; the jumbled timelines and the sense of honour amongst thieves that comes direct from Robert Rodriguez and Tarantino via Scorsese.

And yet Lucky Number Slevin takes all these old baubles, dusts them off and rearranges them in a way that makes them seem new again. How is this possible? Well, a good deal of the credit goes to Scottish director Paul McGuigan and his longstanding cinematographer Peter Sova. Helped by some snappy editing by Andrew Hulme, they have put together an extremely stylish and visually kinetic piece of work. We may have seen this glossy wrapping used before, but it’s still just as pretty.

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.

*** 2006/10/11 8:22 AM
Lucky Number Slevin I enjoyed this one. Would not have predicted the outcome earlier on in the movie. Josh Hartnett played his role quite well.
Lona 2006/10/17 1:57 PM
Slevin Unpredictable is always good. Keeps you guessing till the end!!!
nazanin 2006/11/19 7:44 AM
Lucky Number Slevin I think the movie was great. but I did`nt get why they made the phone rang?
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