Film Preview: Slevin isn’t lucky enough

Lucky Number Slevin, a crime thriller directed by Paul McGuigan and starring Josh Hartnett, Bruce Willis, Lucy Liu, Morgan Freeman and Ben Kingsley, has everything a good crime movie could want, except, well, character development and a plot.

Slevin (Hartnett) is a man who has had quite the run of bad luck. He not only gets evicted from his apartment, realizes his girlfriend is cheating on him and suffers a broken nose at the hands of a mugger, but two warring crime bosses wrongly believe he owes them a combined debt of $126,000. This case of mistaken identity leaves Slevin in a difficult place, only made worse considering one of the crime bosses, known merely as The Boss (Freeman), wants him to kill the son of the other boss, The Rabbi (Kingsley), in order to pay off the majority of his debt.

It’s difficult to deny the artistic talent involved with the project. A big-name cast, witty writing, some stylish cinematography, yet the whole thing manages to fall flat due to its utter lack of characterization and how ridiculously convoluted its plot becomes later on. Suffice to say, the last half attempts to be a psychological thriller as well as tie up all lose ends, leaving viewers disgruntled at how pointlessly elaborate and unmotivated it becomes.

By-and-large, the shallowness of the majority of the characters by-and-large accounts for this. Bruce Willis plays–wait for it–an elite hitman named, of all things, Mr. Goodcat. Who could’ve guessed this incredibly unforeseen example of type-casting? Bruce Willis? A hitman? Didn’t see that coming! It’s like casting Adam Sandler as a dumbass! Brilliant! Despite his large amount of screen-time, he’s given less lines than Keanu Reeves, creating a character so woefully underdeveloped he almost exists entirely as a deus-ex machina, which is bad given how much of a pivotal role he plays in the progression of the plot.

Freeman’s The Boss and Kingsley’s The Rabbi don’t appear to be crime bosses so much as wankers who sit in tall buildings plotting things. The only elements of their supposedly-vast criminal empires you see are the goons who bring Slevin to them. The only semi-developed characters in the entire story are Slevin–who’s likable in the first half but laughable in the second–and Lucy Liu as Lindsey, who, despite being one of the more unique characters–and not typecast as some sort of sword-wielding assassin, to the movie’s credit–is added solely to introduce a pointless romantic sub-plot.

There’s an urge when creating crime dramas for the writer to toss viewers a sudden curve-ball, making the plot appear more psychological than it really is. Sometimes this works, as can be seen in pretty much any episode of CSI, but sometimes it fails miserably as in 1998’s Wild Things. Lucky Number Slevin falls into the latter category. The motivation simply isn’t there, leaving the story feeling like it was written in two parts, with the former being an enjoyable, nearly humourous take on film noire and the latter feeling like a half-assed attempt at an action movie.

Let’s hope Slevin’s comment about bad luck coming in threes is untrue so as to spare the misfortune of two sequels to this rather-shoddy bit of storytelling.

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