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You may have heard some of the buzz associated with the upcoming movie, Snakes on a Plane, which is based entirely on the fact that people like the title of the movie so much they want to see it. At the other end of the 'title' scale, is Lucky Number Slevin. It's a stupid name and it certainly doesn't convey any information about the movie. And I can't reveal the meaning of the title without giving away too much about Lucky Number Slevin, but I can say this much. Slevin (Josh Hartnett) is a man who 'apparently' stumbles into a war between two crime kingpins (Morgan "The Boss" Freeman & Ben "The Rabbi" Kingsley). I say apparently because as the story progresses, it becomes apparent that all is not what it seems. But I will just summarize the top layer of the story. Hartnett comes to New York city, supposedly, to visit a friend after being dumped by his girlfriend. His friend is missing and while Hartnett waits for him, many people come looking for the friend and think that Hartnett is he. These people include the girl next door (Lucy Liu) and thugs belonging to The Boss, a.k.a. Freeman and The Rabbi, a.k.a. Kingsley. Hartnett's friend owes a lot of money to both, The Boss and The Rabbi. Watching all these comings and goings are the police (Stanley Tucci et al.). And popping up all over the place is a mysterious hitman (Bruce Willis). The action mostly involves Hartnett getting hit in the face by everyone else in the cast except Liu. She gets to kiss him. More I cannot say except that most of what I have described is not what is actually going on.
Lucky Number Slevin is infuriating yet compelling. The plot is internally consistent but if you think about it, it makes no sense. And there are so many subplots, hidden plots, flashbacks, sudden cuts that you will think that Syriana is easy to figure out. The difference is that Syriana, for all its twists and turns, is just telling a straight story. As in films by Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction) or Guy Ritchie (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels), nearly every cast member in Lucky Number Slevin has to die violently, as we try to figure out what's really going on. It's like an Agatha Christie story directed by Sam Peckinpah. But the plot of Lucky Number Slevin is really more like The Godfather: Part II or Once Upon a Time in the West. It seems like it will be easy to figure out the ending with so few people left alive, but nothing is what it seems, and some people who you saw killed might not really be dead.
The director, Paul McGuigan, has made a few films no one has ever heard of. He does a good job here although there are too many film-school camera techniques that are in there just to show he can do them. The cast is amazing. Freeman and Kingsley have 4 Oscar nominations each. I should say Sir Ben Kingsley. He is even in the credits as Sir Ben now. And Stanley Tucci (Big Night, The Terminal) and Lucy Liu (Charlie's Angels, Kill Bill) are always great. Oh and I almost forgot Bruce Willis. He just stands around looking ominous but he's good at that. In fact, it's all Josh Hartnett (Black Hawk Down, Pearl Harbor) can do, just to keep up with these guys. He's not bad and he can take a punch really well. But he pales a bit next to the rest of the acting talent. All that being said, Lucky Number Slevin is a pretty interesting movie and held my interest throughout. The clues are all there to figure out who Slevin really is and why he's doing what he's doing but they don't make it easy for you.