Slaying one addiction so another can thrive

You Kill Me

on June 22, 2007 by John P. McCarthy
When drinking starts interfering with your work, it's time to admit you have a problem and do something about it. But if your work is killing people, maybe staying drunk is the best thing.

That's the moral question posed and answered by the superb You Kill Me . Leave it to John Dahl to helm a movie in which swearing off booze is more laudable than forsaking your job as a hit man. This chipper crime comedy doesn't have the chilly nastiness of Dahl's black-widow yarn The Last Seduction or the twists and turns of Red Rock West . What it can boast is sardonic black humor and Ben Kingsley as pickled Polish-American Frank Falenczyk, an assassin toiling for his mob family in Buffalo.

Perpetually sloshed, Frank is no longer fit to help the clan—a snow-plowing concession fronting illegitimate enterprises—in its turf war with Irish gangsters backed by Chinese organized crime money. So his uncle the boss (Philip Baker Hall) ships Frank off to San Francisco to dry out. Seedy real-estate broker Dave (Bill Pullman) finds him an apartment and a job in a mortuary, where he meets Laurel (Tea Leoni)—a more unlikely pair of screen lovers hasn't come along in years. Together with shifty Dave and Frank's AA sponsor—a gay toll-taker on the Golden Gate Bridge played by Luke Wilson—Laurel enables Frank's killing ways.

The biggest knock on this deliriously droll movie is that it's slightly underwritten—we want to spend more time with these oddballs. Leoni displays her comic acumen in a noir setting, and, aside from his wobbly accent, Kingsley brilliantly limns a sympathetic variation on the Mephistophelean persona he nailed in Sexy Beast .

The City of Buffalo, Alcoholics Anonymous and mobsters (and civilians) of every ethnicity are abused. Yet the movie's gimlet-eyed perspective doesn't obscure its affection for the upstate burg and racial stereotypes, nor preclude endorsing the 12-step method of recovery and the mob code of loyalty. Under the influence of You Kill Me , if the choice between giving up murder or alcohol ever presents itself, chucking the bottle will be a cinch.
Distributor: IFC
Cast: Ben Kingsley, Tea Leoni, Luke Wilson, Dennis Farina, Philip Baker Hall, Bill Pullman and Marcus Thomas
Director: John Dahl
Screenwriters: Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely
Producers: Al Corley, Bart Rosenblatt, Eugene Musso, Carol Baum, Mike Marcus and Zvi Howard Rosenman
Genre: Crime comedy
Rating: R for language and some violence
Running time: 92 min.
Release date: June 22, 2007
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