IT'S OVERHYPED, BE SERIOUS, MOVIES

PAUL MCGUIGAN’S “LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN” IS ALRIGHT, I GUESS

Photo: Nick Fewings

Lucky Number Slevin doesn’t quite have it.

Do you ever avoid watching a film because you think its name sounds dumb? Well, that was pretty much my reasoning behind my procrastination when it came to watching Lucky Number Slevin. I was thinking of how dumb the word “Slevin” sounded, how it’s weird that the movie is said to be a crime mystery and yet the title of the film sounded almost like a joke, and I suppose I wasn’t too far off.

Lucky Number Slevin is a mind-bender. It’s a psychedelic movie about how Slevin Kelevra (Josh Hartnett) is mistaken for his friend Nick Fisher (Sam Jaeger) and ends up in a horribly dangerous position. You see, Nick is a criminal who is regularly engaged with unpleasant people. He was involved with the baddest of the baddest, two criminal heads, one literally called “The Boss” (Morgan Freeman), and another called “The Rabbi” (Ben Kingsley). Both men just so happened to decide that they wanted to cash in on a debt that Nick owed right when Slevin decided to visit him. Slevin had a series of bad luck (getting mugged and losing his wallet, getting cheated on and kicked out of his apartment), so he wanted Nick’s help. But when he got there, Nick was no where to be found so he waited for him to return. It was a bad idea because people were hungry for someone to be Nick. Even though Slevin tried many times to prove that he wasn’t his friend, no one believed him. And just like that, he’d immediately put his life in jeopardy. Luckily, Nick’s neighbour Lindsey (Lucy Liu), decided to take on the task of helping Kelevra out of this twisted game.


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The film takes a while to get into. For one, we are introduced to the story by an unknown man (Bruce Willis) who starts spewing details about a random story to Fisher at a station of some sort. He speaks so softly, so slurred, it’s difficult to understand what he’s saying so I actually had to pause, turn on subtitles and rewatch his monologue. Of course, that meant that his speech didn’t impress the intensity and curiosity it was meant to inspire. Moments like that are frequent so, what I’m saying is, blasting the volume on your laptop won’t be enough, you’ll need subtitles if you really want to catch a lot of what the characters are saying, to catch the details.

Despite this, the film was entertaining mainly because of how staggering it was. The storyline was arranged like a comic book or like a Choose Your Own Adventure novel, with events strangely sliced together. There is a sense of gravity that is maintained almost entirely throughout the film, which is created by the ominous music and focused shots, pauses, and use of silence. All these storytelling tools create a bizarre atmosphere that sets the foundation for what’s supposed to be a complex puzzle but the assumption of humor throughout the story overshadows this cool effect. In any case, it makes the odd air of the film appealing because every character is peculiar, especially Kelevra.

The problem is, I don’t think that the film was meant to impress such a hazy aftershock. The dark tone of the film suggests that although screen writer Jason Smilovic likely wanted viewers to feel like they had seen something cool, a brazen and clever crime story, much like say Match Point or better yet, Wicker Park (also directed by Paul McGuigan), he lost his direction. Truthfully, I only decided to watch Lucky Number Slevin after remembering the totally underrated power of Wicker Park. It was a fantastic mystery. The plot was so striking I decided to give another McGuigan film a try but unfortunately, Lucky Number Slevin doesn’t quite have it.

It’s missing something. Maybe a more inventive conclusion, a more meaningful role for Lindsey than she was given, more mystery or at least a surprise for the avid thriller watcher. But, it was too predictable and far too light and easy to untangle. I feel that Lindsey’s enigmatic energy was the key to maintaining a sense of bewilderment. Had she been made to play a larger role in Slevin’s story, to make the sense of perplexity pronounced, the story could have been astonishing. Instead though, the ending felt lacklustre because of how easy it adheres to the status quo. And so, the resolution felt straightforward; anyone watching could have imagined how it would progress. It’s too bad.

After a long, and flat development, when I had finally reached the ending, and came to understand, like Kelevra’s quirky personality, I had hoped for a memorable finish. But Smilovic wrapped up his riddle with such a lame loop that was so unnecessary. Albeit sweet, it did nothing to add or change the defeated position of the film. It only made me pause and wonder why anyone would put themselves in the position that Lindsey did. And so, like Lindsey, the film feels random and careless.

Lucky Number Slevin is tolerable, a whole lot of whatever. I certainty won’t remember it tomorrow or maybe even a week from now, but it’s not terrible. Of course, with big name actors like Bruce Willis, Josh Hartnett, Ben Kingsley, Morgan Freeman, and Lucy Liu, all in one film together, anyone would expect something spectacular. In this case though the star cast was somewhat squandered which was a disappointment, but it wasn’t a total waste. At least I was mildly entertained, so there’s that.

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