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Slevin is pulp fun

By Lady Liberty
web posted April 10, 2006

Lucky Number Slevin

** 1/2 out of ****

Lucky Number SlevinFrom the first time I saw a preview for Lucky Number Slevin, I wasn't entirely sure what to think about it. It appeared to have elements of the suddenly popular graphic novel genre even as it seemed to harken back to the days of the 1950's detective potboilers. It also seemed a little confusing. But the more previews I saw, and the less I thought I knew, the more I did know one thing: I was intrigued. Besides, with a cast like the one boasted by Lucky Number Slevin, it had to have at least some redeeming qualities, didn't it? So I took a chance and bought a ticket for a matinée showing this weekend.

The story begins with a tragic story. We're not quite sure why it is we're being told the story, but then neither is the nice young man at the airport who's listening. Meanwhile, Slevin (Josh Hartnett) is having kind of a rough week himself. In the hopes of getting away from it all, he travels to New York to spend a few weeks with his friend, Nick (Sam Jaeger). Unfortunately, Slevin's bad luck continues on arrival as he's first mugged and then gets to Nick's apartment only to find that his friend isn't there.

Nick may be gone, but his next door neighbor isn't. Lindsey (Lucy Liu) wastes no time introducing herself to Slevin despite the fact he's just taken a shower and is wearing nothing but a towel. Fortunately (for more than one reason), she can't stay long. But before Slevin can get dressed, some others arrive to introduce themselves, and they're not nearly so friendly.

A pair of men working for someone they refer to only as "The Boss" insist that their boss wants to see Nick and wants to see him now. Slevin explains he's not Nick to no avail, and soon finds himself facing The Boss himself (Morgan Freeman). That's when he learns that his friend, Nick, might be in just a little trouble. It's not long before Slevin finds himself in trouble as well as he's apparently landed in the midst of a feud between The Boss and his rival, The Rabbi (Ben Kingsley).

Somehow, Slevin has to survive the next few days as well as manage to convince all comers that he's not Nick. As complicated as his life has suddenly become, it's about to get worse as one of the world's most infamous assassins, Mr. Goodkat (Bruce Willis) enters the mix, as does a New York City police detective (Stanley Tucci) who's absolutely certain that something untoward is going on and that Slevin is at the center of it all.

Josh Hartnett may not be the most stellar of stars, but he's well suited to this role and does a fine job. Lucy Liu is just wonderful as the quick-witted and quirky Lindsey. Morgan Freeman and Ben Kingsley are equally credible as men with a good deal of violence to bend to their command, and Bruce Willis seems tailor-made to play Goodkat.

The sets are frankly almost another character in and of themselves. I found myself horrified and fascinated by turns at some of the backgrounds (the wall paper made me shudder more than once), and yet I was also able to appreciate just how much these sets added to the overall look and feel of the film. The stylization of the sets echoed graphic novels and some of the underrated Sin City and, in fact, the contributed considerably to the atmosphere.

Some critics have compared Lucky Number Slevin unfavorably with the classic Pulp Fiction. While I think it's fair to suspect that neophyte writer Jason Smilovic was inspired by Pulp Fiction and some of its later, lesser imitators, Lucky Number Slevin can stand on its own just fine, thank you, if it's considered less pure drama than a black comedy. Meanwhile, director Paul McGuigan takes Smilovic's material and does an admirable job with it with a mixture of Quentin Tarantino, a dash of David Lynch, and his own directorial style.

Sure, the sets are attention-grabbing, and so is that well-known cast. But Lucky Number Slevin couldn't work without creative direction and a clever script. Fortunately, it has both. As an aside, those of you who are fans of scripts that know they're clever (and some of us are) are in for a real treat as are camera angle buffs.

If you want real believability, Lucky Number Slevin falls short. But if you'd like to see a hard-boiled old-style thriller come to stylized life, Slevin will prove an enjoyable experience. I was entertained, amused, and bemused throughout until the jaw-dropping conclusion; on my way out of the theatre, I overheard the couple behind me saying, "Wow!" I'm guessing they had a good time, too.

FAMILY SUITABILITY: Lucky Number Slevin is rated R for "strong violence, sexuality, and language." The violence is frequent, and when it comes, it's often graphic. The sexuality, however, is far less so on both counts. This is not a movie for young children from any perspective, nor will it be easy for them to understand the relatively convoluted plot line (something that doubtless served to remind some of the aforementioned critics of Pulp Fiction). For those of age 16 or so and up, however, Lucky Number Slevin should prove to be a pretty good time.

Lady Liberty, a senior writer for ESR, is a graphic designer and pro-freedom activist currently residing in the Midwest. More of her writings and other political and educational information is available on her web site, Lady Liberty's Constitution Clearing House, at http://www.ladylibrty.com. E-mail Lady Liberty at ladylibrty@ladylibrty.com.

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