Slevin (Hartnett) is in New York to stay at a friends apartment. Trouble is, said friend owes not one but two criminal kingpins (Freeman, Kingsley) a lot of money, and when Slevin is mistaken for the absent debtor he finds himself in deep trouble with bo
It’s unfortunate for Scottish director Paul McGuigan that his new film comes out only months after Revolver. With its enigmatic protagonist, weak philosophical stylings and artfully shot chess match, memories of Guy Ritchie’s recent flop are dredged up throughout. But considering Lucky Number Slevin is also crowded by the kind of colourful, warring gangster cliques typically found in Ritchie flicks, McGuigan might not mind — he’s clearly a fan.
That Slevin lifts brazenly from a filmmaker who is himself a shameless plunderer doesn’t seem to have been much of a concern for anyone involved. For a thriller that aspires to be breezy, cool and bright, it in fact feels fatally tired. This is a movie where every henchman has to have a distinctive tic and a name like “Slow” or “Elvis”. Characters reference Bond films and Morgan Freeman’s gnarly gang boss, supposedly mourning the death of his beloved son, feels the need to dramatise his first appearance with a lengthy speech about a ’50s cartoon creature called the Shmoo. All good for actors wanting to exercise their monologue muscles, but the sub-Tarantino pop-culture patter generally falls flat.
Where the movie does come to life is in the scenes shared by Josh Hartnett and Lucy Liu. Defying her usual ice-queen image, Liu shines as the only innocent in the story, a bubbly, Colombo-loving coroner who falls for Hartnett’s Slevin, the shadowy stranger from outta town, and tries to help him untangle the mystery. Her perky performance is a highlight that illuminates Lucky Number Slevin’s main flaw — its infuriating coldness.
With a corkscrew plot reliant on constantly wrongfooting the audience and concealing information, McGuigan works more frantically than the Wizard Of Oz behind his curtain to keep the illusion alive. The result is a puzzle box of a pic that slips perpetually forward and backwards in time, teasing but not allowing any real connection with the lead character,let alone fringe figures like Bruce Willis’ ghostlike assassin or Stanley Tucci’s weary detective.
By necessity, the story’s players have to stay cyphers — not good for a feature that stretches to around the two-hour mark. And despite the cool, intriguing, ’70s-set opening segment, the long-awaited final-reel reveal just isn’t good enough to justify the wait.
Like its title (will there be a worse one this year?), Lucky Number Slevin isnt as clever as it thinks it is. It has its moments, but did we really need another Revolver?