Apart a bad title and the decidedly pretentious way Ben Kingsley has been labelled “Sir” on the film’s advertising campaign, Lucky Number Slevin is actually rather enjoyable.
Slevin (Josh Hartnett) has more than a bad day when he stays at his friend’s apartment in New York. A neighbour named Lindsey (Lucy Liu) calls around for some sugar and meets Slevin who is obviously not the elusive Nick who owns the apartment. The pair exchange witty banter and wonder where Nick has got to.
Later, Slevin is mistaken for Nick by a couple of punks, punched in the face and dragged to meet a crime boss. He then becomes involved in a violent war between two evil crime bosses who both live at the top floor of directly opposing buildings. Slevin tries to prove he is not Nick but also enjoys fuelling the waging battle between The Boss (Morgan Freeman) and the Rabbi Schlomo played by Ben Kingsley.
Directed by the Scottish filmmaker Paul McGuigan, whose past credits include the excellent British film Gangster No1 and the less raved over remake of Wicker Park – which also starred Josh Hartnett – you would at least expect a bit of violence and some moderate intrigue. He does deliver the violence – quite vicious at times – and the intrigue is there in abundance from start to finish. From the excellent opening segment to the surprise (not all that surprising for well read film goers) climax, Lucky Number Slevin is an exciting modern day noir film.
A sharp script by Jason Smilovic tries too hard to ape Tarantino with its overindulgence in pop culture references and silly, pedantic banter. But it is engaging and funny. The dialogue between Slevin and Lindsey is probably the highlight of the film. Lindsey gets herself involved in the whole mess and plays a pretend sleuth, trying to find out where Nick is and to get to the bottom of Slevin’s awkward and unfortunate situation.
Bruce Willis (at high water mark after a string of successful films) plays a hired assassin who is becomes embroiled in the violently bitter, revengeful war between both crime bosses. He doesn’t talk much, but his intimidating presence is felt. Stanley Tucci plays a seedy detective named Brikowski who tries to bust Slevin.
Josh Hartnett is a strong lead character and bearable for once; he seems to be toughening up. Unlike Guy Ritchie’s Revolver, Lucky Number Slevin is rescued from complete critical annihilation and ultimate obscurity by a well written script, engaging (although clichd) characters and some surprising twists and turns.