Lucky Number Slevin

April, 2006, Thriller

Directed by:Paul McGuigan

Starring:Josh Hartnett, Bruce Willis, Lucy Liu, Morgan Freeman, Ben Kingsley, and Stanley Tucci

Repetition may be a sincere form of flattery, but that doesn't make it any easier on derrieres in a movie audience. If you're going to ape a master at pop culture, you'd better be very good at it, because comparisons can be lethal. Slevin marries a terminally coy script to performances so hammy they belong in a delicatessen; the results are both annoyingly predictable and dangerously close to cinematic plagiarism of that slasher & gasher extraordinaire, Quinten Tarantino. By sheer coincidence, this is the seventh crime/thriller of 2006; while Slevin be described with a great many words, "lucky” isn't one of them. Everyone involved in this project should be muttering "mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima cupla". (That's especially true of someone named Earl Dittman of Wireless Magazine who described this junk as "The Year's Best Thriller" in The New York Times ad. We have laws regulating truth in lending; why not in newspaper advertising?)

Josh Hartnett, of boyish good looks and negligible talent, wanders through this mess as the unlikely victim of a remarkable series of horrific events that involve multiple homicides, several broken bones and a performance by Ben Kingsley so grossly over the top his knighthood ought to be revoked. Through it all, Hartnett, (who's in danger of replacing Ben Affleck as the least talented actor of his generation) wears a consistent expression of irritating nonchalance, as if his bare chest and hint of pubic hair are sufficient to add nuance and depth to his character. He turns out to be someone connected to the slaughter that opens the film, but the audience has no trouble arriving at that conclusion long before the script does. Bruce Willis also glides in and out of these proceedings, his face frozen in a rictus grin which threatens to become his trademark. Morgan Freeman plays a nonchalant gang boss involved in a terminal feud who plays chess while he's not ordering assignations and Lucy Liu does a nice turn as a forensic pathologist; each brings a glint of interest to their roles, but that fitfully good work is buried beneath the self-consciously Tarantino-ish efforts of television screen writer Jason Smilovic, whose work on the Karen Sisko series did little to prevent it's near instantaneous demise. 

Danny Aiello and Stanley Tucci also make mercifully brief appearances here, doing little more than collecting a paycheck, an insufficient reason to devote their time and talent to this kind of self-consciously mannered dreck.

Unable to decide whether it's a comedy masquerading as a thriller or vice versa, Slevin winds up being neither, wasting a lot of talent and audience time in the process. May it die an ugly and un-mourned death at the box-office.

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