Lucy Liu), Slevin gets mistaken for Nick and sucked
into a plot involving joint gambling debts to two feuding, equally
paranoid and security-conscious crime lords known as the Boss (Morgan
Freeman) and the Rabbi (Ben Kingsley).
In order to erase his debt to the Boss, Slevin is charged with
bumping off Yitzchok (Michael Rubenfeld), the gay son of the Rabbi. The
Rabbi, meanwhile, has his own demands of Slevin. It soon becomes
apparent, meanwhile, that “Smith” is actually Mr. Goodkat, a famously
discreet assassin, and he has strange and murky plans involving Slevin,
who must in turn start thinking on his feet in an effort to turn the
tables on those that would take advantage of him.
McGuigan also directed Hartnett in Wicker Park, another movie
on one level about the convergence of identity and opportunity, and he
made use there of all sorts of slurry, obfuscating devices. Here,
though, he has material whose ingrained archness better matches some of
the things he’s trying to do. Jazzy interstitials make short work of
many a character and scene, and the film’s opening preface from Smith
spells out its diversionary gambit. The set design is all flirty ’60s
décor, full of pop and lines of distinction. What’s left, though
incredibly arch, is energetic and charismatic.
Hartnett gets to play askance and off-kilter, something he does
well, and that many of his blander roles don’t afford him the
opportunity to do. The meet-cute banter with Liu is fun if tonally
dubious, harkening back to the days of Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell.
At one point Lindsey compliments Slevin by saying he reminds her of
James Bond; this later entails a discussion of whether or not this
really was a compliment, based on which Bond she was talking about. If
Willis, in full-on stoic mode, is merely a placeholder here, you don’t
fault him too much given the size and function of his part in this
rangy ensemble. As slick and masturbatory as it is freewheeling and
fun, Lucky Number Slevin is a crime caper predicated on head feints. If that bothers you, don’t play its slots. (MGM/Weinstein Company, R, 110 mins.)