Lucky Number Slevin

Lucky Number Slevin

2006, R, 109 min. Directed by Paul McGuigan. Starring Josh Hartnett, Ben Kingsley, Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Lucy Liu, Stanley Tucci, Michael Rubenfeld, Kevin Chamberlin, Oliver Davis, Sam Jaeger, Mykelti Williamson.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., April 7, 2006

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.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Paul McGuigan Films
Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool
Annette Bening soars in the last days of starlet Gloria Grahame

Kimberley Jones, Feb. 2, 2018

Victor Frankenstein
This version of the Frankenstein tale is told from Igor's perspective

Marc Savlov, Nov. 27, 2015

More by Marjorie Baumgarten
SXSW Film Review: The Greatest Hits
SXSW Film Review: The Greatest Hits
Love means never having to flip to the B side

March 16, 2024

SXSW Film Review: The Uninvited
SXSW Film Review: The Uninvited
A Hollywood garden party unearths certain truths

March 12, 2024


Lucky Number Slevin, Paul McGuigan, Josh Hartnett, Ben Kingsley, Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Lucy Liu, Stanley Tucci, Michael Rubenfeld, Kevin Chamberlin, Oliver Davis, Sam Jaeger, Mykelti Williamson

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle