Thursday, March 02, 2006

LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN - slick, funny, gun-totin' awesomeness

LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN is not a pantheon movie but it has an awful lot going for it. Those looking for above-average Friday night pop-corn entertainment would do better to see this than the god-awful alleged satire, DATE MOVIE.

LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN has a fairly convoluted plot, but it is by no means as opaque or incredible as some reviewers would have you believe. Slevin Kalevra is the oddly-named hero of the piece. He comes into New York to stay with his friend Nick Fisher, but finds an empty apartment and a kooky neighbour in the form of Lucy Liu. It turns out that Nick was in hock to two warring underworld chiefs: The Boss and The Rabbi. Each brings him in and asks for a “favour”. These favours are not of the borrowing-a-cup-of-sugar variety: they are of the Don-Corleone variety. The movie then follows Slevin paying off “his” gambling debts with the police and a hitman on his tail.

The first good thing about LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN is that it has a genuinely funny script, with the kind of word-play and love of a quick one-liner that you find in Tarantino movies pre-Kill Bill. As an added bonus, cine-literate viewers will love all the movie and TV references – which flip from Hitchcock to Columbo by way of the Schmoo. The movie is full of the kind of conversation you have with your mates in the pub. First time screenwriter Jason Slimovic is clearly one to watch.

The second really good thing about LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN is that despite being really very funny, especially in the first half hour, it does then flip into darker territory. It is not afraid to show the good-looking hero do bad things, and despite the re-shot ending, has a more noir-ish feel than the standard Hollywood guns’n’ass fare.

The third super-cool thing about LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN is that it looks awesome. This is not simply because Josh Hartnet spends the first forty minutes in a towel, although I am not complaining about that either. It is because the production designer has taken the heavily patterned wallpaper and kitsch chandeliers from Soho House New York and painted the town with it beyond all sense and taste. If I ruled the world, this is what it would like. Like a seedy seventies nightclub the morning after too much scotch.

The fourth wicked thing about LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN is that it is really well acted and for the most part by people playing against type. Josh Hartnett partially redeems himself from the travesty that was PEARL HARBOUR as Slevin. Lucy Liu, hard-assed lawyer in Ally McBeal and gang-land warrior in Kill Bill, plays the charming, ditzy GIRL NEXT DOOR. I loved her in THREE NEEDLES and I this, and wonder she isn’t getting/taking on more work. Morgan Freeman, all-round cool, good guy in countless flicks, plays a vengeful mob boss. And best of all we have SIR Ben Kingsley as opposing mobster, Schlomo. Kingsley morphs together his role as Jewish thief, Fagin, in Polanski’s OLIVER TWIST and Cockney psycho Don Logan in SEXY BEAST. The performance is restrained and absolutely convincing. In one especially devastating scene, where he hears some terrible news, just look at his face. It’s an acting master-class all if its own.

The final awesome thing is that the director, Paul McGuigan, of GANGSTER No. 1 fame, really knows how to make a visual impact. The way in which he uses the camera brings so much style and energy to the screen. Guy Ritchie wishes he were this cool.

LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN is currently on release in the UK and opens in the US on March 31st. There are no scheduled release dates for Continental Europe.


  1. Whoa, my jaw slackens, the drool drips down, how will I endure the wait?

  2. Saw this last night and liked it. Not as good as Gangster no 1 but still worth viewing.

  3. it's okay, but by far not as cool as Snatch

  4. I saw this movie two nights ago, and am still waking up going, "Hot DAMN, thaht movie was awesome." And I agree with Bugsy, the wallpaper deserves an Oscar too...