The Nick Name

The movie stars Josh Harnett as the oddly named Slevin Kelevra, a white boy lately tied up with a string of bad luck. First, he finds out his girlfriend is cheating. Then on his way to visit his buddy Nick Fisher in New York, he is punched on the nose and gets mugged. He enters his buddy’s apartment but Nick is nowhere to be found. There’s only the chatty neighbor Lindsay (Lucy Lui) – who talks the same unrealistic language as Mr. Kelevra (ah, how cute). Then thugs show up at the door mistaking Slevin for Nick. It turns out Nick owes money and suddenly it is Slevin who’s forced to take his Nick’s place of paying rival crime bosses The Rabbi (Sir Ben Kingsley) and The Boss (Morgan Freeman).

“Lucky Number Slevin” is frustrating to review because it splits me into two. I can write a full review of how I passionately hate it, but on the other hand, I also enjoyed the movie. On first impression, it looked like another stylish gangster movie, trying too hard to be cool. It led me to underestimate, an action that oddly benefited the movie. With so low expectations, I was happily surprised that the film had some substance and skill after all.

Despite the cliché turns, they aren’t too obvious as they are happening. The plot is effective, with bits of rousing storytelling sprinkled about. And there are a lot of twists involving scenes deliberately left out by the editor. (I’m sure they could make the sequel “Still Lucky # Sleight” by just creating the movie’s missing scenes). The movie is not quite believable though. Without giving much away, it involves a grand scheme that depends on so many factors. And yet, with the exception of one snag, it’s perfectly executed. But hey, at least, “Lucky Number Slevin” attempts to plug some plot holes to stop credibility from leaking. While the goal was not attained, the effort noticeably improved the movie.

What gives the movie some clout is its well-known cast. The biggest revelation is Lucy Liu, in a welcome change from her dominatrix-vibe roles. She makes her Lindsay a sweet kooky girl with a penchant for unraveling mysteries. Josh Harnett in the lead role is a bit uneven. He’s good in comedic scenes, but quite unconvincing in other scenes. Veterans Freeman, Kingsley, Tucci, and Willis are at their professional level and elevate the movie from being cheesy. Sometimes I’m embarrassed by the lines they’re fed – it’s smart-ass, asinine, sculpted movie dialogue. It’s sometimes amusing, but the overall effect is distracting. It comes across as fake. ALL the characters talk the same gibberish way. They all probably talk like the writer. How else can you account for characters with superb knowledge of movie trivia? Hey, I know movies too. Maybe I’d make a good gangster.

With its emphasis on tricks, gimmicks, sleight of hands, and misdirection, “Lucky Number Slevin” is more of a magic show than a movie. While it’s fun and enjoyable, it’s only deemed superior by the most gullible spectators. Furthermore, the whole film reeks of I’m-so-clever vibe. I think cleverness takes some subtlety. We all know who the filmmakers are trying to imitate: Quentin Tarantino. “Lucky Number Slevin” has the Tarantino tricks, but poof, it never achieves the Tarantino magic.

Grade: B+

Josh Hartnett, Stanley Tucci, Ben Kingsley, Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Lucy Liu, Kevin Chamberlin, and Oliver Davis
Screenplay by
Jason Smilovic
Directed by
Paul McGuigan
Rated R for strong violence, sexuality and language