Lucky Number Slevin

A Film Review By Jason L. King

Starring: Josh Hartnett, Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Ben Kingsley, Lucy Lu
Directed By: Paul McGuigan
Rated:Rated R for violence, language and drug content.
Review Posted: April 25th, 2006

Final Grade:

Have you ever heard of a Kansas City shuffle? You haven’t? Well a Kansas City shuffle is when while everyone else is looking one way you go the other. The Weinstein Company’s newest film, Luck Number Slevin is just that, one giant Kansas City Shuffle.

Slevin (Josh Hartnett) is a down on his luck guy who is in the wrong place at the wrong time. When he decides to crash at a friends house for a few weeks, he gets mistaken as someone else that is into a lot of money to two rival Mob bosses, The Boss (Morgan Freeman) and The Rabbi (Ben Kingsley). Both men have plans for Slevin to pay off his debt by by helping them rid the city of their rivals. Caught in the middle and under surveillance by the police and a contract killer named Mr. Goodkat (Bruce Willis), Slevin has to figure out how to pull off the biggest Kansas City shuffle in the world to get out of it all alive.

Lucky number Slevin should be a fun little crime flick, but it has it’s highs and lows. The dialog is corny and must be written by the writers of Gigli. The script is littered with unnecessary curse words thrown in as an attempt to be funny. A word of advice to the writers of Slevin: If you choose to use curse words in a film, you need to make it seem like it fits. Don’t just throw the F word around like a 5 year old on the school playground.

While the swear words are running a muck all over this script, Slevin also tries to be too clever for it’s own good. Everyone in this film must speak in axioms and riddles, and no one can give you a straight answer. It’s kind of funny the first time you hear it, such as clever little sayings like the following:

Slevin: “Who Are You?”
The Boss: “I’m The Boss.”
Slevin: “Why do They Call you the Boss?”
The Boss: “Because I’m the boss.”

Sure it’s kind of funny the first time you hear it, but when you introduce every character like that it’s annoying. We are introduced to Goodkat, The Fairy, The Rabbi and a plethora of other characters with the same back and forth time wasting banter. It’s like everyone’s trying to be a comedian in this film. The big question you need to ask yourself is if each of the characters say the same things 9 different ways is it actually clever? My thought is that in small doses it would have worked, but too much of a good thing can just get old real fast.

On top of the random swearing and the axioms and riddles games, the film loves to exploit every stereotype it can. every character Slevin meets is an over the top stereotype. We are introduced to the black mob boss, the crazy Rabbi, the eccentric gay son of the Rabbi, the strong, silent, lone wolf hit man and who could forget the Asian school girl next door neighbor played by the ferocious ferret, otherwise known as Lucy Lu. At first each of these stereo types don’t mean much, but when you add them all up with the script it’s just another case of the writers of the film trying to show how clever they are by exploiting every stereotype in the book. Apparently the writers thought they could keep you in the seats for this film if they just keep the main characters bickering back and forth with each other with a quick witty exchange of pointless dialog and bad stereotypes.

In Lucky Number Slevin, one line that stuck out to me was when The Rabbi said “I live on both sides of the Fence and the grass is always green.” Well luckily for Lucky number Slevin, the film has very similar qualities. Despite being poorly written from the opening lines, it does hail the talents of Josh Hartnett, Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Ben Kingsley, Lucy Lu and Stanley Tucci. Each of them do a wonderful job in the roles, but the script doesn’t back up their performance. The other surprising thing about Lucky Number Slevin is the film takes a total twist at the end. It drops the clever BS and becomes a totally different film in the last 20 minutes. It actually has a good story. But it’s really too bad that they didn’t try and set up this tone a lot earlier. By the time this came around, I had already lost interest. The last 20 minutes of a film doesn’t make up for a near lack of a story for the first hour and half.

Unfortunately I can’t give Lucky Number Slevin a good grade. By the time the film turned into something that I started to enjoy, it was too little too late. The film early on reeks of mediocrity. The writers and producers however manage to pull a even bigger Kansas City shuffle than Slevin does on screen. They lure you into the theater seats with big names like Willis, Harnett, Freeman and Kingsley and while you’re staring at the screen they’re headed off with your money and laughing all the way to the bank.

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