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by Willie Waffle

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Lucky Number Slevin

Josh Hartnett stars as Slevin - the unluckiest man on the face of the earth. After arriving in New York at the behest of a friend, Slevin is the subject of mistaken identity. A formidable crime lord, The Boss (Morgan Freeman), thinks Slevin is someone who owes him a substantial amount of money, so he forces the young man to pursue a vengeance killing against his biggest rival, The Rabbi (Ben Kingsley), to clear the debt. Little does our hero know that a mysterious hit man, Mr. Goodkat (Bruce Willis), is manipulating the entire situation, and Slevin might be very expendable, whether he is successful in his task or not.

What is Mr. Goodkat's goal? Will Slevin find out in time?

Director Paul McGuigan tries to make Lucky Number Slevin into a quirky film noir, and succeeds at times, but the movie gets better as it goes along, because McGuigan gives up on the quirk and focuses on the story and action. This is where Lucky Number Slevin turns into a good dramatic film, so I wish he had gone with this tone the whole way through.

Writer Jason Smilovic has provided a script full of staccato dialogue and attempts to make Lucky Number Slevin sound like a David Mamet piece with generic names for The Job, The Boss, The Rabbi, etc. However, it all feels a bit too forced, just like the story's twists and turns feel too telegraphed and done for the sake of having some twists and turns rather than being dictated more organically. Worst of all, Smilovic makes the story wrap up too neat and tidy, with one twist too many, with one too many coincidences, and leaves you walking out of the theater thinking of ways Lucky Number Slevin could have been better. It's not horrible, but I think the cast saved the movie from being worse.

Harnett looks to emerge from Lucky Number Slevin as the biggest winner. He is more enjoyable to watch than he ever has been in any other movie as he plays the scared kid thrown into someone else's troubles, and a situation that seems over imposing and impossible to solve.  Not content to get by on his looks, Hartnett has a perfect mix of cowardice, pluck and determination as Slevin tries to figure out how he ended up in this mess and how he is going to get out. Smilovic does a good job developing the character throughout the movie, and Harnett shows he has what it takes to lead a movie, keep us interested, and stand toe to toe with some of the best actors in the business.

The rest of the supporting cast is alright, but not asked to do anything special. Willis walks through this one with his usual professionalism, but I wanted to see him add some sort of spark or specialness to the role that is lacking. Anyone could have played Mr. Goodkat, but you hire Willis because he will find something new in the character others could not.  In Lucky Number Slevin, he's just doing it by the book. Freeman is strong as The Boss with his voice of God and usual screen presence, but Lucky Number Slevin's biggest surprise is Lucy Lui.

Lui is amazing! She brings such great vibrancy and excitability to Lindsay - the girl across the hall who quickly falls for Slevin as she attempts to help solve the mystery of what this boy has gotten himself into. She creates a character who is lovable and irresistibly girly, and I mean that in the best of ways. Lui makes Lindsay nervous and cute, while spouting off huge chunks of dialogue at a rapid fire pace with a natural feel.   

Lucky Number Slevin is not a clunker by any means, but I would like to see what McGuigan and Smilovic could do with it after more experience in the movie making business.

1½ Waffles (Out Of 4)

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