This fun but ultimately disappointing mistaken-identity thriller has style galore, which may actually be the crux of its problem. A clever script by Jason Smilovic and a terrific cast keep this vehicle moving at a quick pace that remains a step ahead of the viewer all the way through to its final kicker at the end. It all adds up, but you may feel yourself snookered by the old Kansas City Shuffle, a criminal maneuver designed to distract attention that’s explained at the beginning of the film by Mr. Goodkat (Willis), a hitman shown to be working both sides of the fence. Everything about Lucky Number Slevin
, especially the production design, is calculated to keep us unbalanced, from the loudly patterned wallpapers and flooring designs to the argyle sweater worn by Slevin (Hartnett) – who, in another move to perhaps keep us off-guard, wears nothing but a towel throughout a major chunk of the film. The script brings up references to Hitchcock’s North by Northwest
and James Bond films, and even the casting of Willis and Liu, who have been strongly associated with previous Tarantino films, contributes to this film’s active overstatement of the company it wishes to keep. Still, the script is deft and abetted by some terrific dialogue. The film reunites Hartnett with director McGuigan (Acid House)
, with whom he made Wicker Park
. As the man mistaken for another, Hartnett as Slevin is full of smart-alecky comebacks, an attitude that seems to make him the equal of the heavyweight actors the character confronts. In an almost comic-book fashion, Freeman and Kingsley play rival crime kingpins – the Boss and the Rabbi – who live in New York City penthouses directly across from each other. Each actor sinks into his outlandish role (and set design), and the result is definitely colorful, although a tad hammy. (Sorry, Rabbi.) Liu, however, gets to try something different here, as the plucky girl next door who plays amateur sleuth and, for once, gets to do a big love scene. Danny Aiello and Robert Forster (another Tarantino association) also turn up in tiny roles that further serve to distract attention from the real business at hand. Lucky Number Slevin
is a busy piece of work whose seductive convolutions get overshadowed by its overinsisting need to prove itself worthy.