There are few stories that are told best only through the beauty of cinema. “Lucky Number Slevin” is one of them.
“Slevin” is a very complex story about a guy who ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time. Slevin, played by Josh Hartnett, has a rather unlucky day when he finds himself caught in the middle of an ongoing war between two of the biggest crime bosses in town. Slevin, who has no idea what is going on or who these crime lords are, is given a choice: he can either pay The Rabbi, one of the city’s most prominent crime bosses played by Sir Ben Kingsley, $30,000 for a debt he knows nothing about, or assassinate The Rabbi’s son for the opposing boss, played by Morgan Freeman. And to make things a bit spicier, Slevin has to watch his back as Goodkat, a world-class assassin played by Bruce Willis, follows his every move.
To say there’s a lot going on in “Slevin” would be an understatement. For many films, an elaborate plot can lead to a disorganized pile of worthlessness, but “Slevin” is able to make it all quite straightforward and enjoyable. The pacing is surprisingly comfortable and there’s never a moment in which you would rather be watching “Oprah’s 20th Anniversary.” “Slevin” is ultimately a worthwhile experience thanks to its myriad of twists and turns that draw together carefully woven clues scattered throughout the story. Seeing it all come together is an exciting experience that you won’t find executed as well in any other medium. Weave in two hours of clever, highly memorable and sometimes comical dialogue, and all that’s left is making sure someone shows up to act.
Not just any cast showed up, however. As previously mentioned, Willis, Kingsley and Freeman make up a powerful veteran force for “Slevin.” It must be written in stone somewhere that any film with Morgan Freeman is bound to be a great film; “Slevin” is no exception. And although Freeman doesn’t quite fit his character as a tough crime boss that could care less if he killed a child, he still packs his “Morgan Freeman Factor” with quite a punch that somehow works. Kingsley makes a truly inspiring performance alongside Freeman as a religious mobster who carries a shotgun (he’s come a long way since “Gandhi”). And yes, his mobster accent is perfect. Willis, devoid of his disturbing moustache from “16 Blocks,” easily steals the show, however, by brilliantly assassinating people left and right and delivering the most ingenious lines in his trademark raspy voice.
Surprisingly, Hartnett is able to hold his own among the veteran brigade as the main character, Slevin. Although Matt Damon would have fit the part just as well, you might come out preferring Hartnett as an action-thriller hero to Damon. Lucy Liu, who plays the easily lovable and bubbly neighbor of Slevin, has an unexpected and charming chemistry with Hartnett that somehow fits in amidst the ongoing roller coaster of events.
Unfortunately, “Slevin” isn’t as lucky as it may claim to be; having Paul McGuigan, director of the forgettable “Wicker Park” and a guy who prefers to make documentaries, at the helm of a low budget production proved to be a bit of a roadblock for “Slevin” on its road to greatness. While the editing is astonishing for such a complex plot, there’s nothing spectacular in McGuigan’s direction aside from his somewhat stylish use of color.
Nevertheless, “Slevin” is no “sleven” out of ten film; it has everything that you love about storytelling and more. If you enjoy memorable dialogue, complex mystery and beholding the best actors in the business, I give you doctor’s permission to skip class right now and see it.
The Word on the Screen: A-