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"Lucky Number Slevin"

Directed by Paul McGuigan.
Written by Jason Smilovic. 
Starring Josh Hartnett, Morgan Freeman, Ben Kingsley and Bruce Willis.
Release Year:  2006
Review Date:  3/8/06

The freebies are coming fast and furious right now; tonight, my buddy Yac and I went over to the indie theater for the area premiere of the Sundance hit "Lucky Number Slevin."

Here's the short version of the plot:  a guy named Slevin (Josh Hartnett) shows up in New York to meet his buddy Nick Fisher (Sam Jaeger) at his downtown apartment.  Problem--Nick's not at home when Slevin arrives, and after meeting Nick's next-door neighbor Lindsey (Lucy Liu), EVERYTHING goes unlucky for Slevin and he's kidnapped, separately, by two rival gangs.  Black gangsters, led by The Boss (Morgan Freeman) want him to do a job; Jewish gangsters, led by The Rabbi (Ben Kingsley), need him to pay back some money.  Bigger problem--everyone thinks that Slevin is Nick, and he owes all of these guys a lot of money.  Biggest problem--everyone wants Nick dead, and since Slevin is mistaken for Nick, well...

There is a ton going on in "Lucky Number Slevin", but thankfully, the script is twisty enough to make things slightly confusing but never totally over your head and there are a ton of characters to keep things interesting.  Director Paul McGuigan (he did "Wicker Park" with Hartnett a couple years back) does a great job with an absolutely loaded cast--in addition to his leads, we've got Stanley Tucci, Bruce Willis, Robert Forster, Mykelti Williamson, and Danny Aiello making turns at some point in this movie, and all of them are great.  There are some great laughs, snappy dialogue (yes, I just said that), and some joke grenades that will have you sitting there for a second before laughing your ass off as you make sense of the riddle just laid out in front of you.  It's also got a shade of romance thanks to the Slevin/Lindsey angle, and you've got some bloodshed thrown in for good measure that is effective because it is so offsetting.  For some people, this will make "Lucky Number Slevin" a turnoff--a decent number of folks have to get shot to make it to our denouement--but like "Pulp Fiction", the violence doesn't really get in the way of your enjoyment of the storyline, it just makes it more brutal a path to waltz through.

At the center of it all is Hartnett, and I find with many people that they either love him or hate him, but I think that he typically overcomes bad material and strengthens already solid scripts.  In that sense, Hartnett seems to be having fun in this role and he doesn't detract from the things taking place around him.

The film never felt great to me, or even superior; it's fun, it's cool, but it's not a classic crime caper that does anything original.  Further, you will see some of the twists coming--the film changes gears midway through--and with others, I thought the script actually took too long to explain what was happening in its last 10 minutes.  Also, I did not like the last two minutes, for reasons that can only be explained when you see the damned movie.

But, as a spring indie caper that feels like a star-studded summer movie, "Lucky Number Slevin" is great, and deserving of its initial praise.  I believe this opens in DC March 24th, but it's probably already out in LA and NYC.

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09