Willis, Hartnett are a match made in 'Slevin'

By , Film critic of The Christian Science Monitor

The Byzantine twists and turns in Paul McGuigan's explosive, uneven "Lucky Number Slevin" hinge on a case of mistaken identity. The affable layabout Slevin (Josh Hartnett) finds himself at the center of a gang war between New York's top crime lords: the Rabbi (Ben Kingsley) and the Boss (Morgan Freeman). Both think he is someone other than the innocent bystander he claims to be. Detective Brikowski (Stanley Tucci) isn't so sure either. Ultimately, neither are we.

Hartnett has been stuck in the young-adult heartthrob mode for some time now, but this comic thriller may launch him into meatier fare. He is in practically every scene, but because he keeps us off balance as to his identity, his presence never wears thin. His hang-loose athleticism is in stark contrast to the lethal robo-assassin maneuvers employed by Bruce Willis's Goodkat, a hired killer who is brought in by the bosses.

The screenplay by Jason Smilovic isn't always fresh, but there is one terrific idea: the Rabbi and the Boss, once close friends and associates and now mortal enemies, have been living in isolation for 20 years atop their respective apartment towers. Each hopes the other will venture outside and get bumped off. It's a baroque bit of business that Poe or Hawthorne might have come up with if they had gone Hollywood. Grade: B+

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Rated R for strong violence, sexuality, and language.

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