Lucky Number Slevin
Paul McGuigan's direction is a little overly slick and Jason Smilovic's script shows a few of its cards a little too early, but the slick direction is revealed to actually be relevant to the story and the screenplay has a few wild cards left in its hand before the movie is over. The film plays with tone beautifully, featuring scenes spanning the gamut from quirky comedy to ones that explore the most vicious facets of the human soul. It is a very fun film to watch despite its occasional brutality, and as I said, even though there are some aspect that you'll figure out before the movie intends you to, there are also a couple of real interesting twists. In a nice little postmodern touch, the film points out at one point that while it is not only a crime story, in many ways it is a hard-boiled noir version of North by Northwest, and the other genres that it touches on are also referenced, such as the James Bond movies, before it strips away all of its games an lays bare what genre the film really is. No, I won't tell you what the movie is, because much of the fun is getting to that revelation (even if you do figure it out a little while before you're supposed to).
It is a film that uses its cast very well. Josh Harnett and Lucy Liu are rather unlikely stars for this sort of thing, but their charisma and bouncy chemistry keeps their scenes together interesting and they never get too cute; in fact, their scenes together are an important element in the pacing of the film. Bruce Willis and Danny Aiello play upon aspects of their respective established screen personas, Stanley Tucci has a rather nice turn (although his physicality and voice inflection reminded me so much of this guy Dennis that I work with that I couldn't help wonder if they're related), and Robert Forster has an effective cameo, but the real prize casting here is Morgan Freeman and Ben Kingsley. Their characters are more alike than they are different, and they know this and they hate each other even more for it. They have a scene together in the film that is just pure acting genius.
This brings us to another strength of the film, which is François Séguin's superb production design. While they are very similar as men of power, Freeman and Kingsley are also different people, and the differences between their demeanors are perfectly illustrated by their respective lairs. Freeman's has very warm colors but severe lines while Kingsley's is cold but sinuously curved and unpredictable. Peter Sova's widescreen Super 35 photography is very flashy, as befits McGuigan's approach to the film, and the score by newcomer Joshua Ralph is rather neat, although the main title is spotted very weirdly.
So, is the movie totally brilliant? No. While the film is intelligent, it does think that it is just a little bit smarter than it actually is, and there are a few turns on top of twists that are a bit of overkill. I am curious to see how well it will stand up on a subsequent viewing as well. But it is a lot of fun with an appealing cast and a few well-wrought mindfucks in it.