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"You Kill Me"

Directed by John Dahl ("The Last Seduction", "Rounders").
Written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely.
Starring Ben Kingsley, Téa Leoni, Luke Wilson and Dennis Farina.
Release Year:  2007

Review Date:  7/12/07


After trying to see a freebie of "Hairspray" tonight and not making it in, I walked to a nearby theater to catch the comedy "You Kill Me" instead...and, it was a not-bad choice given my situation.

Ben Kingsley shows up in so many movies now that it's hard to keep up, but this time he has picked well, as he plays a Buffalo-based hit man named Frank who has a pretty bad drinking problem.  After botching a hit on a local thug (Dennis Farina), Frank's handler Roman (Philip Baker Hall) sends Frank all the way to San Francisco to join an AA program to get over his bad habits.  While he's on the left coast, he joins a local AA group where he gains a friend and a sponsor in a gay toll-booth operator named Tom (Luke Wilson) and a part-time job where he cleans and preps cadavers for burial ceremonies at a local funeral home.  At the funeral home, he meets Laurel (Téa Leoni), who just happens to be single and enjoy the company of older, seasoned hitmen...and, a relationship is born.  Unfortunately, trouble is brewing back in Buffalo between the rival families we meet early on, so eventually, Frank has to go back home to figure out what's what.

Kingsley can do it all, so it's no surprise that his low-key contract killer has some great lines but more importantly, his line delivery is what normally gets the laugh...between the snide looks, the stiff looks, the "are you fucking kidding me?" looks and the sincere stare of a focused killer, Kingsley is fantastic.  The rest of the cast features talented actors (at least, besides Leoni, who produced this film) but they aren't as strong as I thought they would have been; Farina is a ham that doesn't seem to be based in our world at all...Wilson is so-so, and even Bill Pullman--who I have generally liked over the years--wasn't quite right in his part either.  But, the mix of comedy and the more morbid bits with killing and handling dead bodies was generally good, and save for a couple of brief moments could be handled by pretty much everyone.

But, the film never gets a belly laugh or a great action scene put together; it never transcends the crazy hitman-flick run that came after "Pulp Fiction" came out in the mid-90s, with nothing you haven't seen before, save for maybe the sideplot of having Frank also work in a funeral home between jobs.  The romance never registered for me; it didn't appear to me that Leoni and Kingsley's characters had any chemistry, and I think that's important if like a quarter of your movie is dedicated to a romance that doesn't make any fucking sense.  Of course, any movie partially shot in San Francisco and Buffalo will garner interest from me, but still.

Not bad.  Don't go out of your way to see it (it's running in indie theaters now), but maybe on video, it's worth a look, especially if you love Kingsley as much as I do.

Rating:  Matinee


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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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The "fine print":
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