Describing Lucky Number Slevin is hard. I enjoyed it a lot, but discussing much of the plot would give too many things away. And there are really some nice surprises along the way. Even when you see some of them coming, the writer and director manage to yank the carpet out from under you all the same.
Bruce Willis, Josh Hartnett, Morgan Freeman, Ben Kingsley, Lucy Liu, and Stanley Tucci deliver great scenes, coming off as chilling and quirky.
Lucy Liu is a scene stealer in the early part of the movie, though. She pops into the neighbor’s apartment and bumps into Josh Harnett, who’s dressed in a towel for about a third of the movie. The dialog between them reminded me of the old Thin Man movies starring William Powell and Myrna Loy. It’s rapid-fire and witty, so you have to be on your toes to catch it all.
After a somber beginning about a chronic loser betting on a horse in a fixed race, the story picks up some twenty years later as two bookies are murdered. Later, Slevin (Hartnett) is mistaken for a man named Nick Fisher who owes the bookies money. Unfortunately, now the bookies’ bosses are trying to collect.
In short order, Slevin is taken to The Boss (Morgan Freeman) and is told he can pay up the $96,000 he owes, or kill the son of a rival crime boss. The rival crime boss is The Rabbi (Ben Kingsley), who later has Slevin kidnapped and brought in. Slevin is then told he has 48 hours to bring in the $33,000 he owes the Rabbi.
Things start to get complicated from there. Obviously the real Nick Fisher has disappeared. Lucy Liu determines that they should investigate and find out what happened to him, which provides for some really fun scenes between her and Hartnett. Then the police get involved, watching Slevin and trying to find out who he is.
Through it all, Bruce Willis walks quietly and calmly, a professional hitman who has his own agenda and is orchestrating everything.
The directing, the looping of the scenes to play over things that weren’t brought out earlier, the flashbacks to earlier events, all play out really well. The movie also reminded me somewhat of Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, which also played with time and sequencing of the stories.
Although the end bogs down a little as everything is explained, the trip leading up to it is great, and it was fun matching wits with the writer. I had some of the overall story figured out by then, but I was still caught unsuspecting twice!