In the wrong place at the wrong time

DIRECTED BY Paul McGuigan, Lucky Number Slevin is a fast-talking insight into the world of murder, revenge and fatally mistaken identities. With boldly coloured sets covered in graphic wallpaper, the film has an almost comic book feel, the emphasis being on visual entertainment rather than believability.

The plot follows a young man named Slevin (Hartnett), who is mugged while walking to his friend’s apartment. When he arrives, he finds that the door is open and his friend is missing. While settling into the apartment (wearing only a towel), he meets Lindsay (Liu) and together they concoct the notion that his missing friend has not in fact gone out, but has been kidnapped, and that it is up to them to find him.

Just after she leaves to go to work, Slevin is forcibly taken (still wearing only a towel) to The Boss (Freeman), a powerful mob boss who has mistaken Slevin for his missing friend and is looking to collect on a large debt. As the only man in his organisation who knew what Slevin’s friend looked like was recently killed, The Boss has no reason not to think Slevin is, in fact, his friend.

The Boss is willing to forgive the debt, if Slevin agrees to murder the son of rival mob boss, The Rabbi (Kingsley), in order to seek revenge upon him for the recent murder of his own son. The Boss gives Slevin 24 hours to consider his options.

Soon after Slevin returns to his apartment, again he is forcibly taken, this time to meet the Rabbi, who also mistakes Slevin for his friend. He wants Slevin to kill The Boss and come up with a large sum of money to pay off a debt.

Slevin returns to his apartment and confides about his situation to Lindsay. Lindsay shows him a photo of the mysterious hit man named Mr Goodkat (Willis), who is also seen in the shadows of both mob bosses and may, or may not, be of some use to them. As Slevin reluctantly plans to murder the Rabbi’s son, he is accosted and watched by the police, as well as thugs from both crime families, who have mistaken him for a new professional hit man. Meanwhile, the sleuthing with Lindsay brings them closer together as passionate lovers.

Many of the film’s plot twists rely on camera tricks and quick editing, which are used to deliberately confuse the viewer. While the storyline is convoluted and the ending may leave some feeling a little cheated, the world of Lucky Number Slevin is never meant to be taken too seriously. Even when orchestrating cold-blooded murder, the film’s lead villains never seem too threatening. This is mainly due to the strong tongue-in-cheek performances of Bruce Willis, Ben Kingsley and Morgan Freeman.

Displaying a Tarantino-like self-awareness, the film makes frequent references to James Bond and vintage cinema, and contains such strong visual elements that viewers are forced to notice each character’s surroundings. This, combined with, a strong cast performance, rescues the films plot failings and produces a gripping, contemporary thriller.

RATING: * * *

*   missable

* *   reasonable

* * *   entertaining

* * * *   very good

* * * * * outstanding