I’m a die-hard Bruce Willis fan, no pun intended (OK, yes, it was), but I recently found a Bruce Willis movie in my library that I hadn’t known was out there. Lucky Number Slevin is a great thriller with an all-star cast. Josh Hartnett is the lead, and also the greenest actor in the primary cast with only about 9 years professional acting at the time this movie came out (2006). He shows up here with legendary actors Morgan Freeman, Sir Ben Kingsley (must add the “sir”), Lucy Liu, Stanley Tucci, and of course Bruce Willis (for some reason billed last in the cast list).
Hartnett stars as Slevin, a poor guy who is caught in an unfortunate case of mistaken identity. This lands him in hot water the local crime boss, The Boss, perfectly played by Freeman in a mix of laid-back fatherly understanding and “mess with me and I will KILL you” badassery. This, in turn, lands Slevin in deep with the rival crime boss, The Rabbi, Kingsley with a New York accent (interesting) and another laid-back personality, but apparently sharper mind than The Boss. Oh, and a double-barrel shotgun! Don’t all rabbis carry one?
But what would both of these crime bosses want with Slevin? They think he is Nick Fisher, a loser who owes them a lot of money. And to pay it back, he’s going to have to do something for them. Kill! But who, and why? This is just the start that leads us down a merry chase, and to the face behind both bosses, the face that brought this kid, Slevin, into a world he doesn’t belong in: Mr. Goodkat, a slippery assassin played with stunning blank-eyed psychopathy by Willis (oh so good at these roles). All the while, Slevin is being watched in his associations with both crime bosses by the police, led by Brikowski (Tucci). And just how does Slevin’s new girlfriend Lindsey (Liu) fit in? Any actor will tell you that it’s so much more fun to play the villain. But this film leaves us guessing who the villains are, and just how many there are.
As expected from this cast, the acting is phenomenal. The DVD has an extended scene with Freeman and Kingsley discussing the past, and the theatrical quality of their performances alone, seeing two acting legends face to face (so to speak) makes the DVD worth watching. Hartnett does well showing both sides of his character when called for, and not before then. He seems the happy, unlucky guy with the cute girlfriend and a decent life, without a care in the world (he calls it ataraxia or adorexia; I looked it up and found both spellings). But when it comes time to pull the trigger to pay off his (Nick’s) debt, can he do it? This is, of course, the pivotal scene, changing the movie from here on out. And I won’t tell you what happens!
The storytelling is perfect, with proper use, and not overuse, of flashbacks in their proper places . Even the camera angles and lighting is used to great effect, putting the right people and places in shadows without truly drawing attention to them. The back of the DVD case compares this to The Usual Suspects, and if you’ve seen that, you know how confusing and detailed this movie is. It could benefit from a second viewing, but certainly needs the first one! This movie asks so many questions we didn’t even think to ask until we get the answers. Not the least of which is, “What kind of name is Slevin Kelevra?”