Movie Review
Lucky Number Slevin
Lucky Number Slevin poster
By Lee Tistaert     Published April 9, 2006
US Release: April 7, 2006

Directed by: Paul McGuigan
Starring: Josh Hartnett , Ben Kingsley , Morgan Freeman , Bruce Willis

Running Time: 109 minutes
Domestic Box Office: $22,495,466
21 of 177
Lucky Number Slevin is still a fairly forgettable film, but it works as a reasonable distraction thanks to its talent, which is more than I expected to say.
Lucky Number Slevin is a film that I didn't really expect to like and was immediately taken in. Judging from the trailer it seemed like the movie was lucky that it had such a cast; and even though that still remains true, the feature is handled surprisingly well by director Paul McGuigan. The film has a classy style that is a marvel to observe (especially the set design of certain scenes), and the tone is consistently solid. The story turns a bit absurd once all the pieces come together, but the cast elevates the material; the actors take fairly average writing and make it somewhat appealing. Lucky Number Slevin is a rather pointless experience when you look back on everything, but it?s a classic example of what can happen when the right talent comes aboard.

Josh Hartnett stars as Slevin, a young guy who is mistaken for a fellow named Nick when he's cornered in an apartment by men claiming that he owes them $96,000 from gambling. Slevin is a friend of Nick's (who has vanished) but doesn't have any I.D. on him to prove his innocence. He is taken to The Boss, played by Morgan Freeman, who tells him his life depends on the money. Slevin then goes on a quest to figure out what happened to Nick, which leads him to unique figures like The Rabbi (played by Ben Kingsley) and Mr. Goodkat (Bruce Willis). It's clear that there's more than meets the eye regarding this gambling scenario, which Slevin seeks to unwind.

On the surface this is one of those really light and formulaic stories that I usually do my best to avoid. It's very simplistic and you can argue that there's no reason for stories like this to be told (other than, of course, for brainless entertainment which you soon forget about). Beforehand this movie was reminding me of movies like Cellular (C) and I Robot (C+) in its extremely basic and breezy setup, and appeared like a cheap attempt for a "cool" caper flick. But Lucky Number Slevin isn't covered in cheese like the two mentioned titles; the performances are very focused and McGuigan doesn't resort to a by-the-book soundtrack to manipulate our involvement. This is somewhat of an actor?s piece, which is evident right from the opening scene. I was reminded of what a good actor Bruce Willis is, and how rarely he gets to showcase his talent. He is probably the highlight of the show with his minor role, and it is a nice break from his pigeonholed roles in 16 Blocks and Hostage (I would say that it?s right behind his work in The Sixth Sense).

There's always the underlying question of why Morgan Freeman and Ben Kingsley are in this movie, and it could've easily come off as a transparent "paycheck flick" for both. The two actors rise above that embarrassing label and make the most out of what they're given. Freeman, especially, manages believability out of his role, and reminded me a bit of Sean Penn in The Interpreter (C+); there's not much there on the page, but he tries to convince you that there is.

You could say that this movie is style-over-substance, but the editing isn't vibrant or in your face like a Tony Scott film. It has a glossy feel which compensates for a lack of anything significant within the story, which really saves the feature from being an absolute bore; in the hands of another director, Slevin would have probably sucked. The film's finale also makes screenwriter Jason Smilovic look as if he?s desperate to be called "clever," as the manner of which truths are realized are a bit forced, making the one-two punch feel fairly gimmicky. The story?s twist is not entirely fulfilling, but enough elements are in gear throughout the feature to hold back the feeling of having been cheated. Lucky Number Slevin is still a fairly forgettable film, but it works as a reasonable distraction thanks to its talent, which is more than I expected to say.
Lee's Grade: B-
Ranked #21 of 177 between ATL (#20) and Down in the Valley (#22) for 2006 movies.
Lee's Overall Grading: 3025 graded movies
Share, Bookmark