Another picture about a troubled hit man, You Kill Me, however, delivers in a dark, edgy comedic way.
John Dahl gave some thrills for the Scream crowd with Joy Ride, perhaps a variation on Steven Spielberg's Duel. Now the film noir minded director gets on solid footing again in the low-budget arena with actors like Ben Kingsley, Tea Leoni, and Bill Pullman.
Kingsley's Frank Falenczyk is far less volcanic than the similar character he embodied in Sexy Beast, and is an alcoholic whose hangovers and blackouts are about to land him in big trouble.
The job to erase Dennis Farina's O'Leary is bungled, which puts his Buffalo Polish Mafia uncle Roman (Philip Baker Hall) in a vulnerable position. Thus, his uncle has Frank remanded to the City by the Bay to "dry" out.
Pullman is well-cast as Frank's realtor cousin Dave who gets him situated and audits his participation at AA meetings (he's in a 12-step program). For employment, Dave sets him up in a funeral parlor as an assistant.
If the screenplay by Christopher Marcus and Stephen McFeely isn't that authentic, it's well grounded in the cruelty that has brought Frank to a support group where Luke Wilson's effete toll booth clerk is a sponsor.
Leoni is the steely, low-key Laurel, spry in TV sales, who has "boundary issues." Her willingness to get close with Frank may need some suspension of disbelief. Yet, the challenges their characters face during their relationship given their personalities and emotional patterns stays on the wagon, unlike, occasionally, Frank.
Having veterans like Hall and Farina are a plus as Buffalo plays out as a Polish-Irish battleground when not played for laughs. And, it's all done without grandiose emoting that figures noticeably in the frugal atmospheric staging by Dahl, perhaps his most assured work since The Last Seduction.
Kingsley, who also is in the producing ranks here, makes another unsavory guy charismatic in the detailed approach to the good and bad in someone so polished in brutality. Frank's ethnicity is credible and Kingsley has solid rapport with Leoni, in one of her most appealing performances since Flirting With Disaster opposite Ben Stiller.
One can appreciate the delicacy in levitating the mayhem, especially with a romantic slicing of a watemelon, in You Kill Me, perhaps as pungently and wryly observant of itself since the likes of Gross Pointe Blank.