You Kill Me

EducationEntertainmentDeathMoviesBen Kingsley

In many dark comedies from the '90s, humor arose from seeing professional killers dabble in absurdly delicate activities. Whether debating the foot-massage minutiae in "Pulp Fiction," attending a high-school reunion in "Grosse Pointe Blank," or climbing onto a therapist's couch in "Analyze This," the criminals in these movies comically revealed a gooey heart underneath their hardened exteriors.

Arriving over a decade late to the party, the hitman-in-AA-meetings comedy "You Kill Me" has all the freshness and up-to-the-minute relevance of a Judge Ito gag.

Ben Kingsley ("Sexy Beast") plays the hard-drinking, Buffalo-based thug whose Polish-mob bosses send him to San Francisco to clean up his act. On the West Coast, he attends Alcoholics Anonymous meetings where he talks about killing people for a living because he thinks the anonymity protects him (which is as painfully unfunny as it sounds), befriends a gay toll-booth attendant (Luke Wilson, "Old School") and falls for a neurotic younger woman (Tea Leoni, "Spanglish"), all while hoping the hazards of his vocation don't catch up with his new life.

Inevitably, they do, so the talented, curiously slumming director John Dahl ("Red Rock West") can throw in bursts of violent action in an attempt to enliven the movie's numbing, mechanical sitcom rhythm.

Leoni and Wilson fit right in with the tone of strained cuteness, each doing their typical one-note work—she with her high-strung-wiseacre schtick, he with his puppy-dog-earnest routine.

Poor Kingsley, on the other hand, gives a precisely detailed performance as if it even matters. His off-kilter line readings are enjoyable, but why put any effort into a comedy so lacking in novelty that its awful-pun title is one of its more inspired notions?

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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