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From Under A Rock: Lucky Number Slevin

February 25, 2017 | Posted by Michael Ornelas
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From Under A Rock: Lucky Number Slevin  


BEFORE WE GO ANY FURTHER, THERE WILL BE SPOILERS BELOW, and seeing that this is a movie with a few twists and turns, you may want to avoid reading more until you’ve seen the film! This film in particular is one that I saw in theaters, and since then, I’ve always had a soft spot for it. It’s not a masterpiece by any means, but I enjoy it.

You only get one first time, and for some people, it comes later than it does for others. This particular column is about documenting the first viewing of a “classic” movie or TV show determined at the discretion of Aaron Hubbard and Michael Ornelas in alternation.

Last week Aaron chose The Karate Kid. This week Michael takes Aaron out from under the proverbial rock to show him Lucky Number Slevin.

Lucky Number Slevin
Released: April 7th, 2006
Directed by: Paul McGuigan
Written by: Jason Smilovic
Josh Hartnett as Slevin Kelevra
Bruce Willis as Mr. Goodkat
Morgan Freeman as The Boss
Ben Kingsley as The Rabbi
Lucy Liu as Lindsey

Michael Ornelas: The fact that this movie has a twist is what made me such a huge fan of it. I always like movies with twist endings if they’re done well. I feel that this movie handles itself very well for the most part, and, at the end of the day, is just a lot of fun.

Aaron Hubbard: I enjoyed this film quite a bit, and was kind of shocked by its low Rotten Tomatoes score (51%). I don’t think it’s a great movie, but I liked it and would probably watch it again it the mood struck me.
Kansas City Shuffle
Michael: “It’s when everybody looks right, you go left.” This film was made because the screenwriter felt he had a good series of twists to throw at his audience, and it all pays off great in the end. When I first saw this movie, I was 17, and my mind was blown. Now I’m 28, and rewatching it wasn’t as satisfying both because I already know the twists, and also because the movie seems so concerned with making sure there aren’t any plot holes, that everything gets a bit over-explained. As a matter of fact, it feels like almost a third of the movie’s running time is devoted to explaining plans before they happen, or explaining how clever people were for pulling off plans right after they did them. I think the movie would have benefitted greatly from trusting its audience just a little bit more. This isn’t to say the twists aren’t good or that the movie is bad…it’s just something that really stood out to me on what is now my fourth or fifth viewing of the film with a completely different set of eyes than when I last watched it (probably 5 years ago).

Aaron: I would agree with that assessment; at a certain point I just wanted them to stop explaining things and just get on with the story. That said, this film did manage to play the gotcha game effectively a couple of times. The main twist of who Slevin is didn’t take me by surprise, but seeing how Bruce Willis’ character played into it was really cool and added a layer to their partnership. The best twists are the ones you don’t see coming but make perfect sense when they happen. I thought this managed that well, even if it got a bit excessive. Perhaps it could have afforded to take a “less is more” approach.

Michael: Yeah. It kind of felt like when a kid is planning to lie to his parents, so he elaborates way too much on his plan to make sure they don’t suspect anything (or maybe that was just me when growing up, heh). But the twists are absolutely effective. The third act is very satisfying when you get to see all the people Slevin is taking out and what their involvement was in the murder of his parents. There are no loose ends once the movie is over, and we also get the nice twist of how Slevin managed to save Lindsey’s life, unbeknownst to Goodkat. That scene where they reunite, and Goodkat finds them is a nice final moment of tension before we get our untarnished “happily ever after,” which is rare in movies like this.
A Cast of Characters
Aaron: Films that are known for big twists fall into one of two categories for me. There’s the ones where the twist feels like the only worthwhile thing that makes the movie feel special (The Usual Suspects, for me). And there’s the films that have a big twist, but the rest of the movie works well enough that even when you know what’s coming, you’re still entertained (The Sixth Sense comes to mind). What stuck with me most here was the strong cast and the fun characters. Slevin is enigmatic and charming but has more going on than that. Ben Kingsley, Morgan Freeman, Stanley Tucci, Lucy Liu… they are all having fun here and their characters stick out. I suspect that the banter between them will hold up next time I watch it.

Michael: Seeing that this wasn’t my first time watching the film, you just hit the nail on the head regarding where the enjoyment comes from on subsequent viewings. I love the first scene with Lucy Liu, where she intentionally tries to sneak a peek at Josh Hartnett without his towel. They have a great chemistry. Then Morgan Freeman gets to be Morgan Freeman, which is never a bad thing. He feels powerful, intimidating, yet welcoming at the same time. Bruce Willis is a little more reserved here than he is in other movies, and that brings a fresh dynamic to watching him act. Everyone pulls their weight here in making the film a showcase in interesting characters. I do, however, adamantly disagree with you regarding The Usual Suspects. That movie is a treasure from start to finish with performances I’d say are stronger than in this movie.

Aaron: I may need to rewatch it, as all I really remember is that killer ending. As for this movie, I’m pretty sure it’s my first experience with Josh Hartnett. The plot kind of necessitates that he’s in there with more venerable performers, but I thought he acquitted himself well. I bought into every plot detail he was selling, and that’s all I can really ask for.
Everyone’s In On It
Michael: It’s neither good nor bad, but it feels like every single character who gets screen time in this movie is a criminal or mixed up in this plan. Everyone. There’s not really a glimpse of the real world for any amount of time, which makes the film a little hard to relate to. Setting up “normal” is important before showing us why what we’re seeing is special or different. I will usually default to assuming the world’s norm is the same as the real world, but you never know. It did serve to show just how big this job is and how daunting a task it will be for Slevin to succeed…but given that we don’t know what he’s even trying to do until the end of the movie, that point is kind of moot.

Aaron: I’m curious to see how this will read for me on a second viewing. Slevin and Lindsey are the most “normal”, as they at least seem to be people just on a run of bad luck. That quickly changes, and maybe they tipped the reveal a bit by having Slevin ready to kill the Rabbi’s son so automatically. After all, even a luckless every man with money to pay is going to be a bit hesitant to just kill some random guy.

Michael: I feel like that was far enough into the movie to be a logical progression (in the decision to hint that he may not be a “regular” guy). But he was so smooth about everything else that it may have blown his cover a little bit.

Aaron: This was fun, which I think is most of my takeaway from it. It had good actors playing fun characters, I like the script, the plot is solid, everything looks nice. Everything works…it’s just not amazing. It didn’t wow me, but it kept my attention and entertained me.


Michael: This is actually one of the few times I’ve picked something for this column where rewatching it has lowered my opinion of the film just a bit. It’s a lot of fun with a star-studded cast, great performances, an easy-going tone, and a unique visual style. But I just can’t get over how much time was spent explaining the plot details.


Aaron: That’s always kind of a lame feeling, but doesn’t happen too often, thankfully.

Michael: Yeah. And I still really like it. I’m sure I’ll check it out again some day.

What’s your favorite movie with a twist ending?

Next week:

Aaron: Next week, we’ve got a classic, a film that many consider to be the absolute best in its genre.
Michael: I know nothing about this. Like, nothing. When you say “best in its genre”, I couldn’t even tell you what genre you’re talking about. Bring it on, heh.

Aaron: I got introduced to this in film class and I’ve been meaning to watch it again for a while.

What is your favorite John Wayne western?

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Check out our past reviews!
Mission: Impossible, They Live, Marvel’s Daredevil, The Silence of the Lambs, 12 Angry Men, The Usual Suspects, The Boondock Saints, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Iron Giant, Fargo, American Psycho, 28 Days Later, Frankenstein, Crank, The Godfather: Part II, American Beauty, Rocky, Alien, Spaceballs, Star Wars: Clone Wars, The Muppets Christmas Carol, Reservoir Dogs, Superman: The Movie, Lethal Weapon, Double Indemnity, Groundhog Day, The Departed, Breaking Bad, Shane, Glengarry Glen Ross, Blue Ruin, Office Space, The Batman Superman Movie: World’s Finest, Drive, Memoirs of a Geisha, Let the Right One In, Apocalypse Now, Aliens, The Incredible Hulk, A Clockwork Orange, Chicago, Seven, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, The Room, Chinatown, Jaws, Unforgiven, RoboCop, The Legend of Korra – Book One: Air, Ghostbusters, Spider-Man 2, Prometheus, Scarface, Gattaca, Monty Python & The Holy Grail, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, Equilibrium, City of God, The Graduate, Face/Off, Snowpiercer, The Exorcist, Hellboy, Village of the Damned, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, Idiocracy, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Fly (1986), Under the Skin, Die Hard, Dredd, Star Wars Holiday Special, A Christmas Story, Snakes on a Plane, The Big Lebowski, Bulworth, Raging Bull, Thank You for Smoking, John Wick, Mulholland Drive, The Karate Kid, Lucky Number Slevin

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The 411
Lucky Number Slevin is an underrated and overlooked crime thriller. It's got one hell of a great cast, a good story and some interesting twists that it might be slightly too proud of. We recommend checking it out if you haven't, as it's quite solid.