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|You Kill Me|
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E||
dir John Dahl|
scr Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
with Ben Kingsley, Téa Leoni, Luke Wilson, Bill Pullman, Dennis Farina, Philip Baker Hall, Marcus Thomas, Jayne Eastwood, Scott Heindl, Aaron Hughes, Devin McCracken, Micheline Marchildon
release US 22.Jun.07, UK 7.Dec.07
Let's go to work: Kingsley and Leoni
There are some interesting ideas swirling around in this quirky black comedy, but some bad casting and a lack of focus make it difficult for us to care much about the characters.
In Buffalo, alcoholic hitman Frank (Kingsley) is ordered by his boss (Hall) to take some time out, leave the snow and go through rehab in San Francisco. In sunny California, he's managed by local handler Dave (Pullman) and soon joins an AA group, where he meets Tom (Wilson). He also gets a job as an undertaker, where he meets Laurel (Leoni) and starts a tentative relationship. But he keeps relapsing with the booze, while back in Buffalo the war with a rival mob boss (Farina) may need his special intervention.
The main problem is that Frank is clearly going through a midlife crisis, so he should be 45 rather than Kingsley's 64. The performance is fine, but the actor's age plays against every element of the plot, from Frank's personal dilemma to his relationship with Laurel, which takes on a slightly yucky feel even though it's nicely played, after the contrived beginning, by both Kingsley and Leoni. Against them, Wilson and Pullman barely register in the film.
That said, Dahl does manage to keep things lively and intriguing as the plot twists around itself. Although the blend of mob thriller, caper comedy and addiction drama is somewhat awkward, at least all three elements play out in a relatively low-key way. But why does Frank seem to be the only hitman in Buffalo? Why does no one seem remotely bothered by the fact that he's a professional killer? And why, for a film set in San Francisco, is the dialog peppered with homophobic jokes?
As it progresses, the sharply astute one-liners get less humorous as the characters get less sympathetic. Sure, this is supposed to be a story of a bunch of losers who must work together, but the plot's gaping holes badly undermine this. So by the time we reach the climactic confrontation, it feels stagy and talky, and utterly inconsequential on every level. A surprising mess from such a talented cast and filmmaker.
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© 2007 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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