"Lucky Number Slevin" is the latest entry into the crime caper subgenre which is one that I enjoy quote a bit. This movie is a fun movie to watch, but it is never able to become a really good movie. It's not that it doesn't try. It's that it tries too hard. The movie is far too self-aware. And not in the good way like "Kill Bill" was. It's self-aware in an annoying, pretentious way. It thinks it's smarter than the audience. Rather than let us simply be Keyser Soze-d, the movie tells from the start that it is going to Keyser Soze us. This spoils the fun of it!
Not that we don't expect a twist in a movie like this. In the past decade or so, the twist ending has become a bit hackneyed especially in this kind of movie. This, along with the foreknowledge that a "Kansas City Shuffle" is taking place, caused me to be unable to become fully immersed in this movie. Whereas I would normally sit back and enjoy being taken for a ride, I spent this movie preoccupied with trying to figure out who was the Keyser Soze.
The movie also overindulges in "interesting" shots and angles. Some work (like the really cool shot of Hartnett and Willis walking towards the camera after the "job") and some are just bad (like the chess scene). Overall, I did like the look of the movie. The sets are highly stylized (as Patricia said "The wallpaper in this movie is a bit too much") and reflect the outlandish situations the movie portrays.
The best thing about this movie is the performances. A A-list cast raises a mediocre movie to a pretty decent one. Morgan Freeman and Ben Kingsley are both funny as opposing crime lords The Boss and The Rabbi (Why do they call him the Rabbi?). Bruce Willis is good as usual in a surprisingly small role. Josh Hartnett is an actor that sometimes surprises me when he's not doing crap. His role here as Slevin is one of those surprises. The biggest surprise for me was Lucy Liu as Lindsey. She has been a few hits, more misses actress to me. I loved her as O-ren Ishii, and she was good in the X-Files episode "Hell Money." Other than that, most of her stuff has been pretty unwatchable. Here, however, I loved her. I quickly developed a bit of a crush on her character.
The other thing I liked about this movie was the dialogue. It is very rapid-fire and highly humorous. The actors manage to pull off some things that could have easily come across as awkward or cheesy (such as the James Bond conversation). They all deliver it in a way that makes me smile.
Good movies of this sort (like "The Usual Suspects" for example) always benefit from repeated viewings. Repeats help me understand all of the twists and the cons, and I see how it all holds up plot and story wise. This movie will probably not hold up on repeated viewings. It is definitely worth watching once though. However, it does get a bit convoluted at times, and I fear that repeat viewings would further expose potential plot holes. Best to sit through it once. Try not to think too much about it and just enjoy the ride.