Lucky Number Slevin
“Lucky Number Slevin” is a mild sleeper. I have no recollection of its release in theaters, and the critics ignored it as well. (Contrast this with “Sideways,” a small picture which exploded thanks to the adoration of critics.) Nevertheless, “Slevin” has made a home for itself in a some movie collections, and given that it was only released a year ago, it may yet achieve a comfortable position under “Snatch” in the male crime movie hierarchy. (“Boondock Saints” is way out of reach.)
This film made me finally forget Josh Hartnett’s starring role in “Pearl Harbor.” Here, he has depth and maturity to complement his good looks. The presence of Morgan Freedman, Ben Kingsley, and Bruce Willis add gravitas to the proceedings, and Lucy Liu made a good ingenue because she hasn’t logged too many miles in that role yet. The minor characters also did fine work. Thumbs up to the director, who told a straightforward story with his camera work; thumbs down to the music crew which added little to the effort.
What most fascinated me was the script. This work reintroduced a couple of my favorite aspects of old Hollywood:
1. Wit in every line of dialogue. One conversation could have eight subtle jokes in it, and making such precious conversation come off naturally is an achievement. The scenes between Hartnett and Liu especially came off well.
2. Three acts in three days. In other words, the whole story occurs in a short period of time, so it moves quickly, but there is sufficient growth that we’re satisfied with the whole. (Unless, that is, you don’t believe a relationship can go from 0 to 60 in less than a hundred hours.) The pacing in this movie, from the rising action to the measured resolution of the many tangled threads, is good.
3. Funny henchmen. They are so much better when they have personalities.
Yet there is room for this young screenwriter, Jason Smilovic, to improve. I could tell it was his first feature-length film because he tried to fit every aspect of life into it, from romance to revenge to violence to comedy to high drama to slice of life. It is admirable the writer is putting so much of his vision into the work, but he must then manage the proceedings very carefully so the tone is consistent. This work had a little whiplash: it began and ended as a serious mob drama and was more lighthearted in the middle. This can dampen the audience’s appreciation of certain scenes because it was expecting something quite different. Regardless, I believe Smilovic provided a worthy movie, and I look forward to seeing which project he works next.