When Paul McGuigan's hyper-stylized, multi-character, ultra-violent romp "Lucky Number Slevin" hits its groove -- with Bruce Willis spinning a yarn as the ice-blooded assassin Mr. Goodkat, or Morgan Freeman luxuriating in the trappings of power as a crime boss known simply as The Boss, or Ben Kingsley having a bizarre snit as a rival crime boss known as The Rabbi -- well, it's pretty entertaining.
And when Lucy Liu, as Josh Hartnett's coroner girlfriend, is bouncing around the corners of the frame because there's really nothing for her to do in this movie but be charming and flirtatious, well, that's pretty entertaining, too.
But these are little moments in a much bigger and more complicated story, one that revolves around an apparently ordinary schmo -- that'd be Hartnett -- who's unceremoniously yanked out of the shower and drafted into the middle of a gang war between the two crime bosses, who think he's the guy in whose apartment he was showering. (He isn't, but it's a reasonable assumption.)
Of course, there's a lot more going on than a simple gang war, and Jason Smilovic's insanely convoluted screenplay lines up various twists, turns, betrayals and fakeouts like dominoes.
It probably would have been better with someone a little more dynamic than Hartnett in the lead -- yes, his lack of range is sort of explained by his character's supposed inability to register stress, but it still makes for a black hole of a performance. And it doesn't help that Smilovic's script has everyone speaking either ersatz Mamet, all circular and posturing, or warmed-over Tarantino, all digressions and movie references.
Yes, the stylized dialogue puts an ironic distance between us and all the homicides, but it also keeps reminding us that we're watching a put-on. Combined with McGuigan's acrobatic camera, it makes for an exhausting movie. Not a bad one, exactly ... just one that feels like it's trying too hard.
Genius Products' enhanced-widescreen DVD covers all the essential supplemental bases, with two audio commentaries (one featuring Hartnett, Liu and screenwriter Smilovic, and a second from director McGuigan), an inoffensive, look-at-all-the-fun-we-had production featurette and a host of deleted scenes.
STUDIO: Genius Products, Inc.
RELEASE DATE: September 12, 2006
TIME: 110 minutes
DVD EXTRAS: French audio dub; English and Spanish subtitles; audio commentaries; deleted scenes; production featurette.
INTERNET SITE: www.slevin-movie.com/