Sunday, November 12, 2006

Cinema - Lucky Number Slevin

You know, I’ve always prided myself on an ability to predict the outcome in every mystery/suspense/intrigue film that I’ve ever seen. The subtle clues that the creators are obligated to include in order to make the outcome credible, like the careful buildup –but failure to show—a pivotal character’s presumed murder, have always screamed out to me for attention, announcing exactly what we can expect in the dénouement. This is a necessary weakness in the art of film; because if certain details aren’t provided along the way, we tend to feel ripped off; the entire purpose of intrigue being to engage the intelligence and attention of the audience.

The best way to mask a scream is by diverting attention to other sounds. And, like Orpheus’ battle of the bands against The Sirens, the most elegant diversion is through artful artifice, not by volume –which is exactly what makes Lucky Number Slevin an elegant film. The motus operandi by which this distraction is accomplished is blatantly explained in the beginning, when Bruce Willis’s character, Goodkat, describes a ruse known as The Kansas City Shuffle. “It’s when everybody looks right, but you go left.”

All the details necessary to ruin the surprise are provided, but they are eloquently minimized through shear distraction. Nothing is what it seems, and though we already know that to be the nature of a film like this, we are nevertheless caught up in it’s web, willing to believe the lies of the spider. Why not? They are delivered with so much charm.

The complete reversal of the protagonist’s role of victim to victimizer is executed with mastery and an underlying sense of justice that makes an evil act –or series of acts—unquestionably good. The film surpasses The Usual Suspects and The Sixth Sense on their very own merits, not least of which are the pensive soundtrack and gratifying cinematography. Classic actors Morgan Freeman (as The Boss) and Sir Ben Kingsley (as The Rabbi) provide their usual stade elegance and depth while Bruce Willis commands an ominous presence, which is exactly what he does best.

The subplot love interest between Josh Hartnett and Lucy Liu, while unavoidably gooshy, is nevertheless charming and, dare I say, envious, if for nothing else because of its union of two souls who happen to be true connoisseurs of James Bond.

Slevin represents the film debut of the young screewriter, Jason Smilovic. I’ve never seen any of his television work, nor do I suppose that I will, but I look forward to seeing more from him in the future.

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