Lucky Number Slevin works a case of mistaken identity into a stylish, rather smug crime thriller.
Director Paul McGuigan reunites with heartthrob Josh Hartnett from the so-so Wicker Park for somewhat more favorable results.
Hartnett as the titular Slevin comes to the Big Apple to see a friend who's seemingly vanished.
Taken for the unaccounted fellow, Slevin has to face two disparate folks from the underworld.
There's the Boss (Morgan Freeman) and the Rabbi (Sir Ben Kingsley), longtime foes. Apparently, Slevin's pal is heavily indebted to both.
A possibility of absolution exists for Slevin via the Boss if he offs the Rabbi's son (Michael Rubenfeld).
The disorienting screenplay by Jason Smilovic allows for a wily assassin (Bruce Willis of 16 Blocks) pushing more than a few buttons offscreen. All the while, Slevin becomes increasingly drawn to his friend's neighbor (Lucy Liu).
McGuigan works a swift, if frenetic precision with his editor that has a convoluted stylishness with unchronological stroking. Though, how it all unfolds with the final bit of important information divulged would indicate something quite elemental. While there is a liveliness to be enjoyed, the sly blending doesn't make one really empathize with Slevin's strange predicament.
Hartnett's groupies will like the early sights of Slevin with a towel covering him, and the actor is focused to range into physical comedy with a steely, somewhat deadpan nature.
Freeman and Kingsley relish their parts, as the latter chews as much scenery as McGuigan allows him, that plays into the actor's strengths demonstrated more volcanically in Sexy Beast.
Liu surprisingly is able to turn the routine girlfriend part into something appealing, as she has an energy demonstrated amply in her Chicago cameo as a pineapple heiress.
Some may feel the approach of Lucky Number Slevin has more than a few nods to the oeuvre of Quentin Tarantino. The attitude toward violence comes off as gratuitous as it justifies cold-blooded retribution. So while the cast looks to be enamored with the process that is a peculiar, somewhat brutal potpourri, the shady, intricate pleasures nevertheless manages to keep rooting interests at an unsafe distance.