In Paul McGuigan’s “Lucky Number Slevin” the opening credits roll and evoke the feeling of a horror film. Strange, because the film seemed to be both advertised and marketed as an action-packed comedy. While “Lucky Number Slevin” did not prove to be a scary movie, with its mixed up events and confusion-filled story lines, one just might wish the film would violently put us out of our misery.
The plot is indeed as strange and complicated on screen as it appears in print. Slevin (Josh Hartnett) is caught up in a case of mistaken identity, as two major opposing crime bosses, “The Boss” (Morgan Freeman) and “The Rabbi” (Sir Ben Kingsley) accuse him of being one Nick Fisher. Despite Slevin’s insistence that he is not the man they want, both “The Boss” and “The Rabbi” assign Slevin separate tasks – “The Boss” beckons Slevin to murder the son of “The Rabbi,” while “The Rabbi” demands that Slevin repay a debt owed to him by Fisher.
To further complicate this overly elaborate setup are the film’s three additional subplots. A mysterious man (Bruce Willis) works, unbeknownst to Slevin, on both sides of the two mob bosses. Of course, it is not until the film’s end that the audience discovers the true identity and motives of this man. Slevin becomes romantically entangled with the effusive Lindsey (Lucy Liu), and must satisfy her needs and their relationship as he attempts to repay the debt owed by another man. Meanwhile, Brikowski – an overwrought detective (Stanley Tucci) – monitors Slevin’s every move as he attempts to discover Slevin’s involvement with the crime bosses.
Unfortunately, “Lucky Number Slevin” is in the throes of an identity crisis. Although the film has its moments and contains some particularly witty and fast-paced dialogue, these moments are infrequent and uneven. The first part evokes past Tarantino efforts, with violence quickly taking charge of the screen. The second part contains aspects of a quirky comedy – and it is this portion of the film in which writer Jason Smilovic seems in his element. The third part consists of a love story and not a very engaging one at that. Action is dispersed throughout the film, so be forewarned if you’re a filmgoer with an aversion to violence.
The exposition drags on for way too long, and the characters are entirely too underdeveloped. “Slevin” lacks any kind of substance and the movie is utterly undeserving of its cast. Granted, audience members are not supposed to empathize with some of the characters, but it seems near to impossible to identify with even the film’s protagonist. Despite this, “Slevin” exudes a kind of smugness that suggests the filmmakers have given themselves a pat on the back, with its intertwined plots and a twist “aren’t we clever” ending. Yet, all the film really does is recycle leftovers from past films, force-feeding them to the audience like a bad family dinner, and it is quite hard to swallow.