Lucky Number Slevin

on April 07, 2006 by Francesca Dinglasan
Involving an intricate, multilayered story structure constructed around a case of mistaken identity, "Lucky Number Slevin," boosted as it is by a serious A-list ensemble cast and a heavy dose of intrigue, crosses the unfortunate line between clever and pretentious, rendering itself tiresome long before its heavily built-up denouement. Screenwriter Jason Smilovic's dialogue, which fills characters' mouths with fast-paced exchanges and protracted analogies, has been described in production notes as the film's "heightened language." And while purposefully stylized and unnatural, the affected speech that becomes the pic's hallmark serves to distract from, rather than enhance, the genuinely gripping labyrinth of twists and turns.

At the center of "Lucky Number Slevin's" maelstrom is the eponymous Slevin (Josh Hartnett), whose run of bad luck hits an all-time high the moment he arrives in New York City to stay with his friend Nick (Sam Jaegar). Finding his old buddy's apartment empty, Slevin decides to settle in while awaiting Nick's eventual return. Slevin subsequently is abducted by a set of bodyguards and taken to the penthouse of The Boss (Morgan Freeman), who thinks that Slevin is Nick. It seems that Nick owes The Boss, and The Boss plans to cash in by having Nick -- who is really, of course, poor Slevin -- off the son of a rival. If Nick/Slevin doesn't agree to the deed, he will be the one killed. Returned to the apartment, Slevin is nabbed by a second set of thugs. Delivered to the penthouse suite of The Rabbi (Ben Kingsley), located directly across the street from The Boss' abode, Slevin is once again thought to be Nick, who is also deep in debt to The Rabbi. Sworn enemies with The Boss, The Rabbi also gives Nick/Slevin the choice to destroy his nemesis or else die himself. Complicating matters is the fact that Slevin is being tracked by a mysterious assassin named Goodkat (Bruce Willis), who is somehow manipulating the not-so coincidental circumstances, as well as an NYC detective (Stanley Tucci) investigating the two crime bosses. Slevin's sole confidant in this muddle is Nick's perky and adventurous neighbor Lindsey (Lucy Liu), whose involvement with her newfound friend takes an intimate turn.

In addition to the embellished conversations that admittedly roll off the tongues of the veteran thespians comprising the cast, every formal element of "Lucky Number Slevin" is hyper-ornate, from its multidimensional interior design motifs to an ever-changing array of camera angles and distances. The effect is not simply exhaustive, it's exhausting. Audiences would do best to concentrate their energy on the film's maze of plotlines rather than its visual gymnastics. Performances by heavyweights Kingsley and Freeman play nicely off of one another, while Willis manages to embody understatement and detachment, despite the requirements of his character's verbal dynamics. Hartnett, meanwhile, makes the most of a role that ping-pongs him from smart-ass victim of circumstance to romantic lead. Starring Josh Hartnett, Morgan Freeman, Ben Kingsley, Lucy Liu, Stanley Tucci and Bruce Willis. Directed by Paul McGuigan. Written by Jason Smilovic. Produced by Chris Roberts, Christopher Eberts, Kia Jam, Anthony Rhulen, Robert Kravis and Tyler Mitchell. A Weinstein release. Thriller. Rated R for profanity and strong violence. Running time: 110 min

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