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Genius Products presents
Slevin: Anything else you want to tell me?
DVD ReviewIt's tough for a crime film to juggle quirky and brutal at the same time, because leaning too much in one direction throws the other too far off balance, and then all you're left with is something with a very uneven tone. Lucky Number Slevin is director Paul McGuigan's (Wicker Park, Gangster No. 1) stylized stab—obscure songs, oversaturated colors, strange camera angles—at a genre in which Quentin Tarantino and Guy Ritchie are the quality reference points, and the script from Karen Sisco scribe Jason Smilovic pulls in the familiar elements—colorful criminals, sudden violence, oddball dialogue—into a tight little package that seems to know just how to handle the aforementioned lean.
The story is your basic mistaken identity variant, with out-of-town slacker Slevin (Josh Hartnett) being confused for his missing friend by a pair of powerful rival crime bosses (Morgan Freeman, Ben Kingsley), each of whom need him to pay back a very large debt by doing some very bad things. A rogue assassin (Bruce Willis) lurks in the shadows, as does a frazzled detective (Stanley Tucci), while Slevin concocts a plan with the requisite inquisitive neighbor/love interest (Lucy Liu). The plot is thickly serpentine, though McGuigan is able to keep things on track, even with elements like the almost cartoonish henchmen (a dense Mykelti Williamson with oversized teeth or a mute Hassidic Jew with wild eyes) or some blunt-force violence that isn't afraid to be ridiculously overdone.
The broad quirks of the script, such as Freeman and Kingsley stealing this as the agoraphobic enemies who live across the street from each other in high-rise fortresses, could easily come off as contrived and silly, but with a pair of Oscar winners it's kind of the equivalent of a couple of well-placed guitar solos just when you need them. Both actors have the ability to make even the most horrendous dialogue sound riveting (see Dreamcatcher and Suspect Zero), and here they are actually given some wonderful blocks of machismo swagger to play with, including the inevitable confrontation between the two. This goes against the likes of Willis, whose assassin character, Mr. Goodkat, speaks in short bursts of noir-tinged sentences, save for the opening scene where he gets to expound on the meaning of what a "Kansas City Shuffle" is.
And all of that is kind of funny, because even with a highly watchable cast like this there really aren't any characters here that for one moment resemble living, breathing people. They are all caricatures, distinctly unusual and contrastive, operating in one of those fictional movie vacuums where villains will literally burst through walls with machineguns firing and everyone speaks in snappy, lyrical waves at all times. But that's what is supposed to happen here; it's the attractive nature of things in that Tarantino/Ritchie-induced universe, where thugs and gangsters spew well-written soliloquies or edgy comebacks as all of the Byzantine plot points eventually weave themselves together.
Even with the strength of the cast, this is one of those unfortunate under-the-radar titles with a weird name that really deserves notice now that it is on DVD. McGuigan fills the mold nicely, delivering the goods as promised.
Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A-
Image Transfer Review: An impressive looking 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen treatment from Genius, with McGuigan's intentionally oversaturated palette really coming off with a big, bold swath of color. The print looks solid throughout, clean with no severe compression issues, and it's just a beautiful looking, highly stylized transfer on all levels.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix is very active, delivering an assortment of discrete surround cues that come in frequently from all directions, utilizing elements like gunshots, telephones and voices. A prominent .LFE channel provides clean, deep bass, so that things like galloping horses or machine-gun rounds have a loud, low punch. Dialogue is clean, and there is a pronounced sense of movement from well-placed directional pans.
A French language 5.1 dub is also included.
Audio Transfer Grade: A-
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu
Scene Access with 18 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Killshot, The Protector, Pulse, Clerks II, Scary Movie 4
4 Deleted Scenes
1 Alternate Endings
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by Paul McGuigan, Josh Hartnett, Lucy Liu, Jason Smilovic
Extras Review: There are a pair of commentaries, the first of which is a solo track from director Paul McGuigan. His accent is a bit thick, and his speaking voice is rather low, so the energy level is little soft at times. McGuigan gives insight to individual scenes, and admitting to wanting to downplay some of the blood by sharing a story about Bruce Willis, who also longed for the old days of bloodless westerns. The second track is somewhat frothy, with Josh Hartnett and Lucy Liu together, with writer Jason Smilovic openly admitting that he has been edited onto the track after the fact. This one has long pauses, and overall the content is frankly a little dull.
Making Lucky Number Slevin (13m:20s) is a no-surprises EPK, with input from McGuigan, the writers and principal cast, all intercut with behind-the-scenes footage. If you've seen one, you've seen 'em all. Next up are four deleted scenes (20m:35s), 3 of which include optional commentary from McGuigan, and the 4th being a :52s alternate—and decidedly darker—ending.
There's a smattering of trailers, including one for the feature, as well. The disc is cut into 18 chapters, with optional subtitles in English or Spanish.
Extras Grade: B-
Final CommentsThere's a definite Tarantino/Ritchie vibe here in this stylized crime thriller lousy with mean but cool characters with mouthfuls of equally cool dialogue, particularly Morgan Freeman and Ben Kingsley as a pair of agoraphobic crimelords.
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