Not so lucky

Slevin gives up more dialogue and narrative twists and less splatter

ANTICIPATION <br>Lucy Liu and Josh Hartnett talk and wait for the gore to happen.

Lucy Liu and Josh Hartnett talk and wait for the gore to happen.

Lucky Number Sleven Starring Josh Hartnett, Ben Kingsley, Morgan Freeman, Bruce Willis and Lucy Liu. Directed by Paul McGuigan. Rated R.
Rated 3.0

Again, Scottish director Paul McGuigan (Wicker Park) has a movie misleadingly marketed. If one goes into his latest expecting a Quentin Tarantino-style pop-culture splatterfest, he or she may be sorely disappointed by this entry, which goes for long stretches between the promised mayhem with ironic bantering among the characters and a leisurely paced onion of a narrative. Lucky Number Slevin seems to owe more to the Florida noir writings of darkly humorous crime authors such as Elmore Leonard and Carl Hiassen, who consistently pepper their stories with casts of quirky criminals and almost absurdist complications.

A cast of quirky characters get introduced to the titular character (Josh Hartnett), who has just landed in New York City after a series of unfortunate complications in his life and crashes at an absentee friend’s pad to sort things out. Unfortunately for him, things go from bad to worse as he finds that his friend has been running up some serious gambling debts with some very unsavory acquaintances who, through a series of miscommunications, think that Slevin is him.

What follows is popcorn entertainment for those who like their thrillers complicated.

Lucky Number Slevin is one of those movies where it would be a disservice to offer any more details about it. Suffice to say, it is a densely woven narrative of twists and turns, of hidden agendas and questionable motives. It unreels much like a stage play, in which emphasis is on the exposition rather than the visuals, although the piece is still very stylized. And while that does hold some degree of charm, things begin to get a little logy toward the end when everything begins to come together; the explanations tend to go on for awkwardly long stretches before the fairly predictable (if one is paying attention to the details and dropped clues) ending.

Along the way, however, the circumstances and characters are consistently engaging in a seriously black-comedy way. Also, it is a nice turn to see Morgan Freeman in evil mode as he plays off of Ben Kingsley as two rival crime bosses, and Lucy Liu is also agreeably cast against type as a perky neighbor with an affinity for Columbo-styled sleuthing.