Gone are the days when crime thrillers were dark, grim and menacing. By relishing in its high-concept visual style and its overconfident and convoluted narrative, a hyperactive candy-striped neo-noir crime film is born. Lucky Number Slevin utilises strong comic book imagery to serve up a colourful and fantastical story centred on a seasoned hitman (Bruce Willis), a hapless young schmuck, Slevin (Josh Hartnett) and two of the biggest crime bosses (Morgan Freeman as The Boss, Sir Ben Kingsley as The Rabbi) in the city.
Slick and fast paced, its snappy dialogue looms heavy over each scene. Reverberations of the non-stop chatter amongst its players echo back later on in the twisting plot. The bastardized comic trope employed seems like a scrawny throwback to the cool and glib heydays of film noir, but is prone to resorting to cheap risible slapstick. It uses radical camera angles, with flashy costumes and the f/x aided edits that mixes up inventive shots and extreme close-ups. It races recklessly headlong into unbridled visceral imagery.
Its always exciting when unknown and enveloping perils surround a films protagonists while both the characters and audience are lost in the scores of seemingly unrelated subplots and incidents, which all threaten to culminate in an unexpectedly explosive finish. But unfortunately, we already expect that ending from the get-go with this movie, as the constant windups become a telling farce early on when they come in barrages. Theres a distinct difference in going along for a ride and being taken for one.
With its edifying cast of acting luminaries that have mastered the art of screen presence, Hartnett is painfully dull and latent as the lead. Its an effort just to discern or glean any emotions from him. Possibly an absence of direction or just lacking in leading man charisma, the initial cartoonish and smart-alecky description of Hartnetts Slevin takes its cue from unfortunate incidents at the start, and never quite goes away even when he becomes a changed man through his experiences. While being the definitive veteran to this genre, Bruce Willis oozes class and polish everytime he turns up in his underdeveloped role.
Lacking heart and originality in its tangled leash, the style over substance debate surfaces once again. The non-existent development of its key characters, the racing and often absurd leaps over the conspicuous plot holes and convenient contrivances knot an otherwise action-packed and energetic romp. Theres a distinguishing shift in tone at the midway mark, when its animated dialog and exaggerated behaviour takes quite an ominous and dramatic turn. It's arrogant and self-conscious in its constant swiveling of the plot that is never quite the head-trip it thinks it is, especially when the holes start to show at the end. Looking for depth in this film would be as nonsensical as its vacuous story but at least it guarantees a relatively enjoyable movie to go along with your popcorn.