Lucky Number Slevin
Directed by Paul McGuigan

Written by Jason Smilovic

Starring Josh Hartnett, Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Ben Kingsley, Lucy Liu, Stanley Tucci


Lucky Number Slevin

There are some films that are so playful - within their own plots and with you at the same time - think of "Pulp Fiction" -- that you must just sit back and enjoy yourself. "Lucky Number Slevin" is that kind of film, and I'm happy to tell you not only that I had a very good time watching it, but so will you.

The year is 1979, and a young man is into the bookies for a great deal of money. He overhears a fixer talking about betting on the seven horse in the tenth race at Aqueduct, and puts everything on the seven, who, just as he takes the lead in the stretch, collapses and dies. Uh-oh; bad news. In a moment both the young man and his family are killed by the bookies' assassin.

Cut to the present, in an airport waiting lounge that looks as though it was designed by Jean-Paul Sartre, since apparently no one has ever been through there before, and Bruce Willis, sitting in a wheelchair, tells a young man a long story about the Kansas City Shuffle. What's going on? Not to worry; things will come clear later on. Then - if I have the film structure right (and remember it took me a couple of viewings to get that a main character in "Pulp Fiction," who is killed in the middle of the film, is alive at the end) - Josh Hartnett shows up at the New York apartment of his friend Nick, who's invited him but who mysteriously is not there. Who is there, though, is Lucy Liu, who lives across the hall and - important for the film - works at the coroner's office.

As Hartnett, whose name is Slevin, comes out of the shower in a very low-cut towel, he is abducted by two goons who apparently mistake him for Nick. They take him to the Boss (Morgan Freeman), who tells him that whoever he is he owes him $96,000, and can either pay the money or kill his arch-rival the Rabbi (Ben Kingsley), who lives in a matching penthouse across the street. No sooner has Slevin returned to Nick's apartment, still in his towel, than the Rabbi's goons come by and take him for a meeting over there; yes, there are parallels at work here.

That's all I'll tell you about the plot, and really, you don't want to deny yourself the pleasures of a film that absolutely revels in its twists. Freeman, Kingsley, Willis, Liu, and even Hartnett are so obviously enjoying themselves that you'll find yourself giggling at the slightest sign of murder. Even Stanley Tucci, as a New York detective whose subplot seems like an extra little arm grafted onto the body of the film, has a good time. And you'll be pleased to know that there's a good internal logic to everything, revealed at the end of the film. "Lucky Number Slevin" isn't a masterpiece, but it will surely be a secret pleasure down the road, and what's wrong with that?