The Barenaked Archives – Lucky Number Slevin

Lucky Number Slevin posterFrom 2003 up until 2007, I was lucky enough to have “movie reviewer” as my job description. As such, I’ve built up a *lot* of reviews for just about every movie that came out during those years, as well as reviews of classic movies.

The Barenaked Archives are reviews that I did for two previous websites. Sadly, they are both gone, so this is now the only place online you can see these old columns.

Lucky Number Slevin wasn’t quite what I expected. I had gone in hoping to see something in the vein of, say, Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels or Snatch: loads of violence and crime and death and twists, but still funny. Or maybe something like North by Northwest, which Sir Ben Kingsley actually references in the movie, because it is another “wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time” movie.

Instead, Lucky Number Slevin turned out to be a dark and surprisingly serious movie, probably a lot more so than it needed to be. On the plus side, it wasn’t predictable (nice after seeing about eight too many movies adhering to their formulas), and it keeps you glued to the screen.

On the down side, the plot gets almost too convoluted in its attempt to keep the audience guessing, so almost twenty minutes at the end of the movie are spent explaining everything. (And I mean everything.)

Honestly, the less you know about this movie going in, the better. I’ll try not to ruin any major spoilers, but a few minor ones may slip through. Fairly be ye warned.

Slevin has a very good cast, if you’re looking at the marquee. We have Bruce Willis as Goodkat, a world-class assassin who actually kills people on occasion instead of yelling at Matthew Perry for running over his chickens; Morgan Freeman and Ben Kingsley as The Boss and The Rabbi respectively, two warring crime bosses who haven’t left their homes in 20 years; and Josh Hartnett as Slevin, the unlucky “wrong man” who gets shoved between these characters.

There’s also Lucy Liu as Lindsey, the plucky girl-next-door/love interest (there’s always a love interest), and Stanley Tucci as a persistent detective tracking down the bodies Goodkat leaves behind and trying to figure out what part Slevin has to play in all this.

Slevin shows up in New York after losing his job, his apartment, his girlfriend, and his wallet to crash at his friend Nick’s place for a few days. Problem is, Nick owes some money to some very nasty people, and when they come to collect, they pick up Slevin instead. The next thing he knows, he’s caught between The Boss and The Rabbi and the chances of him surviving the next three days aren’t looking good.

It sounds good, and for the most part it works. The story evolves believably, but the whole time there’s this sense that something’s not quite right, that something’s missing. There are parts they’re not showing on purpose. It’s like watching a magician and knowing that he’s going to trick you in some way, you just don’t know how.

Tricks are the best when you don’t know they’re coming, but when they’re revealed the pieces all click into place, without a twenty-minute denouement. In this case there are so many twists it’s practically necessary, but that makes the explanation only moderately easier to sit through.

The occasional bout of waxing poetic (like the Rabbi does near the end of the movie) recalls a character’s inner monologue in a novel, but even as fond of writing as I am, those parts should’ve been cut. For God’s sake, I have never met a person who talks like that, except maybe at 3 a.m. after a few beers or other mind-altering substances. The monologues serve no purpose other than to make the script seem smarter than it is, but they drag out the scenes.

Lindsey is another weak link. She’s nothing more than a bed-buddy for Slevin, and by the end of the movie it’s obvious she could’ve been eliminated completely and the story would have been no worse for wear. That’s not to say Lucy Liu does a bad job, it’s just that her character is pointless.

Considering that it’s April and most movies are mind-numbingly rote, Lucky Number Slevin is an interesting movie that at least attempts something a little different. It doesn’t always succeed, but at least it makes the effort.

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3 comments on “The Barenaked Archives – Lucky Number Slevin

  1. Clay had me watch this for the first time a few weeks ago. I LOVED it. Which surprised me, as this is normally not my thing. But you’re right. The less you know about the movie, the better. Every time I thought I had it figured out, something would happen to prove me wrong. But it all made eerily perfect sense at the end and was not what I would have expected. =)

    Some of the things you point out like Lindsey’s character and the Rabbi’s monologues didn’t really bother me, but I think that’s because I looked at this as more of an “artsy” movie rather than a realistic one.

    If you’re ever up for another artsy film that will keep you wondering until the last 10 minutes…go watch “The Nines” with Ryan Reynolds. Definitely not a popular one of his, but it was so very very good. Very serious in parts, but it fits. However, when they break out into song in one scene just ignore it. That’s the only part that made me stop and think “wtf?”.It quickly gets back on track though. lol

    • thebnc says:

      My brother saw this one with me when we went to the theater, and he loved it as well. I remember being frustrated that the entire final act of the film was explaining the first two-thirds of it.

      That being said, I’m glad that you enjoyed it. If nothing else, it WAS trying to do something different, it wasn’t predictable, and the actors all did a good job. I can respect that, even if I didn’t personally love it.

      “The Nines” sounds interesting, and I like Ryan Reynolds. And what do you know…it’s on Instant Watch. 🙂

  2. FYI…..If you watch “The Nines”, don’t look up ANYTHING about it. Just go with it. Even the trailer (which I just watched and to me it spoils the surprise at the end by making it easier for you to figure stuff out throughout).

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