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Paul McGuigan
Josh Hartnett, Bruce Willis, Lucy Liu, Morgan Freeman, Ben Kingsley, Michael Rubenfeld, Peter Outerbridge, Stanley Tucci, Kevin Chamberlin, Dorian Missick
Writing Credits:
Jason Smilovic

Wrong Time. Wrong Place. Wrong Number.

Lucky Number Slevin is a comic thriller that twists and turns it's way through an underworld of crime and revenge where nothing is as it seems. Set in New York City, a case of mistaken identity lands Slevin (Josh Hartnett) into the middle of a war being plotted by two of the city's most rival crime bosses; The Rabbi (Ben Kingsley) and The Boss (Morgan Freeman). Slevin is under constant surveillance by relentless Detective Brikowski (Stanley Tucci) as well as the infamous assassin Goodkat (Bruce Willis) and finds himself having to hatch his own ingenious plot to escape the maze alive. Also starring Lucy Liu, Lucky Number Slevin is directed by Paul McGuigan and written by Jason Smilovic.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$7.031 million on 1984 screens.
Domestic Gross
$22.494 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1

Runtime: 110 min.
Price: $29.95
Release Date: 9/12/2006

• Audio Commentary with Director Paul McGuigan
• Audio Commentary with Actors Josh Hartnett and Lucy Liu and Writer Jason Smilovic
• Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
• “Making Lucky Number Slevin” Featurette
• Trailers


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Lucky Number S7evin (2006)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 6, 2006)

Already saddled with one of the most awkward titles I’ve ever heard, 2006’s Lucky Number Slevin also comes with a dense plot. A prologue begins the movie. An apparently wheelchair-bound man named Smith (Bruce Willis) tells a stranger (Sam Jaeger) a story in an airport. Back in 1979, a guy called Max (Scott Gibson) bets big on a horse race that seems to be a sure thing. He loses and the mob kills him, his wife and his son as retribution.

Oddly, when he finished with the story, Smith snaps the stranger’s neck and we move to meet Slevin Kelevra (Josh Hartnett). After a series of unfortunate events, he stays at his buddy Nick’s apartment and encounters neighbor Lindsey (Lucy Liu). She believes Nick has gone missing and decides to investigate, all while romantic sparks ignite between her and Slevin.

He has other concerns, unfortunately, when thugs come to find Nick. They ignore Slevin’s protests and take him away in the belief that he’s Nick. Slevin ends up in front of crime mastermind “The Boss” (Morgan Freeman), a man to whom Nick apparently owes $96,000. The Boss will cancel the debt if Slevin murders Yitzchok (Michael Rubenfeld), the son of rival “The Rabbi” (Ben Kingsley). This is an “eye for an eye” deal, as The Boss believes The Rabbi had his own son offed.

Slevin then finds out that Nick also owes $33,000 to The Rabbi and has 48 hours to produce it. In addition to these concerns, we see that Detective Brikowski (Stanley Tucci) and other cops are on Slevin’s tail. In addition, Smith haunts the background as a hired assassin. The film follows all these plots as they intersect and intertwine.

Could films like Slevin exist without the success of 1994’s Pulp Fiction? Probably not – this kind of dark action/comedy/noir owes a massive debt to that classic. Unfortunately, Slevin aspires to a Tarantino sensibility but comes across as Quentin Lite. It has the look, the feel and the swagger of a Tarantino product; it just lacks the depth and true pizzazz.

Slevin isn’t too clever by half – it’s too clever by 112. The film borders on turning precious the way it dances around and stays arch. It embraces its own quirkiness to an extreme, and this feels quite forced. The flick tries to walk the line between intense violent drama and comedy but never comes across as natural. Instead, it turns into a mess.

All of the plot machinations do more harm than good. These jerk us this way and that but don’t actually add up to much of anything. It doesn’t help that the movie’s big climactic twist can be seen from a mile away. Look, I’m not one of these jokers who always claims to detect a surprise ending from the very start. I admit that I didn’t foresee the conclusion to The Sixth Sense and similar efforts. I’m usually going with the flow too much to work up where the tale will lead.

In this case, however, there wasn’t much question about what would occur. I won’t reveal the twist, but let’s just say that the opening story about Max comes back to haunt the film. That’s the problem with that tale: it makes no sense as a stand-alone item, so we can easily figure out that it’ll mean something else. Because of that, the climax loses any chance that it’ll surprise us.

Perhaps I could forgive the predictable ending if the other plot developments felt like they led somewhere. They don’t, and they come across as attempts to distract us from the movie’s inherent lack of substance. The third act is especially problematic since it does little more than try to explain what came before it. If you need to devote that much time to retroactive exposition, it’s probably not worth the effort.

What makes all of this sad is that Slevin boasts such an excellent cast. It pulls out a long roster of notables, most of whom it wastes. Hartnett seems awfully miscast as the lead, I must say. He’s too earnest and all-American to pull off the smarmy smartass tone presented by the character.

The scene in which Freeman and Kingsley square off almost makes the movie worth my while. We get two pros, tied next to each other, working with nothing more than facial expressions and voices. The pair sum up their characters’ decades-old animosities in what becomes easily the film’s most gripping sequence.

Too bad that segment is too little to fully redeem the rest of Lucky Number Slevin. A film that worries too much about plot twists and too little about plot, it tries to dazzle us with fancy footwork. Instead, it just spins itself dizzy and leaves us without much to make it effective. I do think the movie keeps us entertained; it just doesn’t leave a more positive impression.

The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B+/ Bonus B

Lucky Number Slevin appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though not without concerns, the transfer seemed consistently satisfying.

A few issues came from sharpness. Wide shots occasionally looked a bit soft and ill-defined, but those instances didn’t occur frequently. The majority of the flick offered good clarity and delineation. I noticed no signs of shimmering or jagged edges, and virtually no source defects presented themselves.

Slevin went with a moderately stylized palette. The colors were a little on the desaturated side, but they usually appeared fairly natural. The DVD replicated the tones with good vivacity, and they seemed to fit well with the visual design. Blacks were rich and tight, while shadows seemed clear and appropriately visible. The softness caused a few distractions, but otherwise I found no reason to complain about this transfer.

I also thought that the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Lucky Number Slevin proved effective. Much of the time the soundfield remained fairly subdued. It usually went with general environmental information and also added good stereo imaging for the music. Occasionally it kicked into higher gear, though, and those scenes added punch. For instance, the storm segment early in the film used all five speakers well, and a few other louder pieces were successful. This wasn’t an incredibly active mix, but it spread out when necessary.

Audio quality was fine. Speech seemed natural and concise, and I noticed no edginess or other problems. Music was tight and lively, and the score also showed good range. Effects presented accurate elements that were clear and concise. Bass response appeared deep and powerful at times. This was a strong mix.

A mix of extras round out the package. We get two separate audio commentaries. The feature offers a solo track with director Paul McGuignan as he presents a running, screen-specific chat. He starts with notes about how he came onto the film and what he wanted to do with the opening credits. From there we hear about cast and performances, sets and locations, cinematography and visual goals, set and costume design, editing, deleted/alternate sequences and other production topics.

Though McGuigan starts off full force, he tends to drag a little as the track progresses. However, this is a minor complaint that arises more out of slight disappointment; he opens so well that it leads us to hope the commentary will be consistently excellent. It’s not, but it remains quite engaging and informative; it’s definitely an above average discussion.

For the second piece, we hear from actors Josh Hartnett and Lucy Liu and writer Jason Smilovic. Hartnett and Liu sit together for a running, screen-specific chat; Smilovic does his own track and gets his comments edited into the actors’ piece. The commentary looks at the goals for the script and the specificity of its language, shooting specifics, costumes and many character issues, dialogue details, story and plot aims, inspirations and influences for the movie’s events, performance reflections and a mix of general topics.

I always fear the worst from actor commentaries, as they usually tell us little. This one proves pretty good, largely due to the nice chemistry between Hartnett and Liu. He does most of the work and provides the lion’s share of the information, but she makes things lively and adds zest to the chat. Smilovic includes many fine notes about his work, and the two commentaries mesh smoothly. This is an interesting and useful track.

Four Deleted Scenes last a total of 20 minutes and 34 seconds. These include “Elvis and Sloe” (7:15), “The Bodyguards’ Story” (4:27), “The Rabbi and the Boss – Extended Scene” (8:00) and “Alternate Ending” (0:51). Most deleted scenes suck. Surprisingly, these do not. All are quite interesting, though I understand why the filmmakers cut most of them. “Sloe” and “Story” are fun but would’ve really dragged in the final product. The “Alternate Ending” is significantly darker than the actual conclusion. Only the extended “Boss” should’ve stayed; we need as much Freeman/Kingsley as possible.

Except for “Boss”, we can watch these with or without commentary from McGuignan. He covers production details and lets us know why the scenes were trimmed or cut. McGuignan gives us the appropriate info in this worthwhile chat.

A featurette called Making Lucky Number Slevin runs 13 minutes, 19 seconds and presents movie snippets, behind the scenes materials and interviews. We hear from Hartnett, Smilovic, McGuigan, Liu, producer Tyler Mitchell, and actors Morgan Freeman, Bruce Willis, and Ben Kingsley. We get notes about the script’s path to the screen, the cast, the characters and the story.

For the most part, “Making” falls into the same bland category as most promotional featurettes. A few good notes emerge, but it’s pretty general. However, some of the shots from the set redeem the piece, especially when Willis jokes with Freeman. (I especially like “You were good in Se7en - crabby, but good!”)

Finally, the set includes the theatrical trailer for Slevin. Ads for Killshot, The Protector, Clerks II, Pulse, Scary Movie 4 and ESPN Home Entertainment open the DVD.

With a truly excellent cast and a potentially intriguing premise, Lucky Number Slevin could have been a winner. Unfortunately, it concerns itself with twists and turns and rarely bothers to become anything more than a Tarantino imitation. The DVD presents very good picture and audio along with some useful extras; I especially like the very strong commentaries. Despite its flaws, Slevin entertains, so it may merit a rental. Just don’t expect a lot from it.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.28 Stars Number of Votes: 25
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