As awkward and tonally off as its title, Lucky Number Slevin offers criminal hijinks, pop culture-referencing repartee, and flighty romance that would make even Guy Ritchie wretch. So full of stars that its peripheral roles are inhabited by the likes of Danny Aiello, Paul McGuigan’s intricately structured but entirely superficial caper is something of a stylistic companion piece to the director’s Gangster No. 1, with which it shares a predilection for mirrors, blooming lights, slow-motion and ‘70s-era wallpaper and wood paneling. This retro-modish aesthetic is in keeping with the film’s general self-consciousness, which also permeates every CG zoom and pan—most notably a laughable across-the-street camera sweep from Morgan Freeman’s kingpin to Ben Kingsley’s crooked Rabbi—and performance, as the illustrious cast affects noir bluster, arrogance, and seductiveness like kids playing dress-up in mommy and daddy’s closet. An extreme display of acting with a capital A, Slevin works overtime trying to strike a pose of hardboiled cool by piling on wiseass one-liners, narrative loop-de-loops, gunplay, and flirtatious discussions about movies (who’s your favorite 007 villain?). Yet by never settling on a consistent mood, the film’s story—about a nobody named Slevin (Josh Hartnett) who, after being mistaken for his buddy, finds himself in serious financial debt to two rival mobsters—is a washout, lacking both boisterous zip and taut suspense. And despite the voracious scenery-chewing of headliners Hartnett, Freeman, Kingsley, Bruce Willis (as a ludicrously stoic killer), Stanley Tucci (as a sleazy detective), and Lucy Liu (as Slevin’s charmingly flighty love interest), no one seems quite sure how far to push things into comic territory, resulting in an uncomfortable atmosphere that exists somewhere between cartoonish kookiness and steely viciousness. Assassinations, double-crosses, a steroidal horse, and gratuitous racial slurs (African-Americans are “darkies” and Jews are “skullcaps” to one nasty cop) all eventually figure into Jason Smilovic’s chronologically jumbled screenplay. But despite its carefully plotted obfuscations and hipper-than-hip swagger, what’s ultimately missing from Slevin is not only mystery and humor, but any trace of inventiveness to counteract the overriding triteness of its Pulp Fiction-ish shenanigans.
- The Weinstein Company
- 110 min
- Paul McGuigan
- Jason Smilovic
- Josh Hartnett, Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Ben Kingsley, Stanley Tucci, Lucy Liu, Kevin Chamberlin, Oliver Davis, Victoria Fodor, Sam Jaeger, Danny Aiello
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