MovieHype00651 – LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN
The opening credits of LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN creeped me out. The previews definitely make you think you’re getting fun crime caper along the lines of an Elmore Leonard Adaptation or OCEAN’S ELEVEN. However, this was more like SE7EN. Then Bruce Willis showed up, talking in that Bruce Willis voice, and I almost got up and left. About the time I was considering it, Bruce kills someone. I sat back down, mildly intrigued. Then Josh Hartnett shows up, and I almost left again. Yes, Josh was in
Then Josh Hartnett (or to be more precise, his character, Slevin), standing there in a towel, reveals to Lucy Liu how trouble comes in threes: 1) He lost his job; 2) His apartment was condemned do to an infestation of rare Guatemalan termites; 3) Upon journeying to his girlfriend’s place, he found her banging his best friend; 4) He just got mugged, which has broken his nose. (When Lucy Liu points out he's named four things, Slevin remarks, “What can I say? I’m on a roll….”)
“Bad Things Happen to Josh Hartnett” is a great concept for a movie. In fact, that should have been the title. With no more wishywashiness on my part, I was in.
Maybe I should have gone with my first instincts.
It’s not that LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN is bad. It’s certainly watchable. I mean, besides Willis, Lucy Liu, and I suppose Hartnett for the ladies, you have Morgan Freeman and Ben Kingsley as rival gangsters and Stanley Tucci as a cop who wasn’t always a cop. (Not to mention a voice cameo from my Man Robert Forester.)
Add to that the plot concept of Slevin misidentified as his buddy Nick, and taken to both gangsters (in that same towel, no less) and pitched head on into the middle of a war he has nothing to do with. Then you have (at times) incredibly witty dialogue, dare-I-say Josh Hartnett, who plays his Slevin as a man with a personality disorder that makes it impossible to worry (which gives him a wry take on what’s happening to him), and Lucy Liu, for once dropping the dominatrix act and instead just coming across as very very very cute.
What’s not to love?
To start with—and I feel I must absolutely hammer this point home—the previews are lies. This movie is not George Clooney and Brad Pitt and Crew robbing a casino. We’re in much darker territory here. (One reviewer called it THE JACKAL meets THE USUAL SUSPECTS. Tone-wise, that seems right on.)
Much more importantly, LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN thinks its about as clever as Ryan Secrest doing homo-erotic banter with Simon Cowell. Or, in movie terms, about as clever as the love child of Steven Soderberg and Quentin Tarrantino. (I felt like giving the movie the Tyler Durden speech: “How’s that working out for you…being clever? Good. You keep it up, then.”)
It’s not that clever.
Hyperion’s Rating Guide for people too lazy to read the entire review (
Suspension of Disbelief: 7 (out of 10): Josh Hartnett is cool. ‘Nuff said.
Genre Grade: Let’s call this Crime Noir. If THE USUAL SUSPECTS is an A+, and THE BIG BOUNCE is an F, LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN is a C-.
Sex/Violence/Naked Josh Hartnett? Plenty of violence, a little bit of sex. Thankfully that towel stays on. You don’t want kids watching this.
Kickassability: I’m going to give it a 20 (out of 100). Even if what’s going on seems painfully obvious, the characters still got some skeelz, and the very concept of a gangster rabbit is pretty funny. Lucy Liu as an amateur detective is good too.
Pantheon Percentile (99 is the best movie ever, 50 is average): Not the worst movie ever made, but I can’t think of a single reason to watch it again. 38.
Granted we’re watching a crime film of wrong identities and men in towels, and we’re told in the first scene about a famous con called “The Kansas City Shuffle,” so I think it’s fair to expect some sort of shenanigans.
But at no point was I remotely fooled. Granted, I’m one smart cookie, but I don’t even think they tried that hard. To top it off, once the big reveal comes, you have 20 more minutes of movie where they just explain to you what should have been obvious all along.
With the caper part patently obvious, you’re left with the craft. The performances are great (if most of the actors seem to be playing incarnations of their movie-star selves), and the dialogue has a nice rhythm. In fact, there are about 20 great ideas in LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN, and I could see them fleshed out into one of the greatest caper films of all time.
But the cat’s out of the bag, now, and we’re left with LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN. If you’re a big fan of caper films (as I am), this might be worth a look, for the good moments that come and go. The rest of you are better off watching OCEAN’S ELEVEN again, or THE USUAL SUSPECTS. (Or for that matter, even THE JACKAL.)