Lucky Number Slevin is one of those films that thinks it’s better than the audience. Wrought with roundabout dialogue and stories that never seem to go anywhere till the conclusion (and even then they’re all rounded up to unsatisfying effect), this is a pretentious mess of a film that you’ll really struggle to get through.
In fact it took me three attempts to watch this film in its entirety. The non-linear style of storytelling (obviously inspired by Tarantino) certainly did the film no favours, with the order of events shifting back and forth numerous times to annoying effect. I can understand the desire to outline the events that occur in an original manner, but it felt to me as if director Paul McGuigan was trying ridiculously hard to be intelligent; and this is where the film fails.
The plot is concerned mainly with Slevin (Josh Hartnett), a young hipster who finds himself caught between two New York gangsters, “The Rabbi” (Ben Kingsley) and “The Boss” (Morgan Freeman), due to a mistaken identity. There’s another plot involving crooked bookmakers and a man owing a large amount of money; and another, involving a mysterious hitman (Bruce Willis) following everyone’s move.
The performances from the actors involved are admirable (‘cept for Lucy Liu, who annoyingly pops in and out of the picture seemingly unannounced), but the style is the real problem here. It’s not that Lucky Number Slevin is a particularly bad film; it’s just McGuigan’s way of telling the story is so damn annoying that many viewers will find it difficult to become engrossed by what is in front of them.
I like films that make me think; I like those that are “difficult” and “arty”, but the execution of the storytelling here is incredibly alienating. Basically, what we have is a simple revenge plot that is made out to be a lot cleverer than it actually is; I was always taught to keep things simple when catering for an audience (something that McGuigan, from the evidence here, doesn’t seem in favour of).