The Slevin of the title is an unfortunate guy played by Josh Hartnett who happens to find himself in the wrong place at the wrong time and winds up involved with some very bad men. With the help of a curious neighbor, a world-weary hit man and two warring crime bosses he tries to extricate himself from this messy situation.
This is a hard-boiled crime drama in the vein of The Usual Suspects and Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, which means that it is bloody, darkly funny and will keep you guessing. The film is a bit of a roller coaster ride of mistaken identities and convoluted plotlines, but near the end when the labyrinthine story starts to fall into place, revealing surprising connections and unlikely alliances the movie pays off.
The script sometimes veers off in Tarantino land with too many clever pop culture references to comic books and old movies, and over-written unusually articulate gangsters, but the actors here rise above the script. Ben Kingsley and Morgan Freeman both play mafia kingpins with gusto, chewing the scenery so much I feared that Kingsley might actually bite through the screen. Bruce Willis makes the best of his usual cool-guy persona, this time as a hit man, and Josh Hartnett, an actor who seems to have been teetering on the edge of stardom for a while now, gives the most likeable and best performance of his career so far.
Lucky Number Slevin isn’t destined to become a classic genre picture in the way that The Usual Suspects of Memento have, but it is a cool movie with really fun performances.