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Jul 18, 2007

Fletch's Film Review: You Kill Me

It's really a privilege to be able to watch Ben Kingsley in action. Now, I know that sounds like some rabid gushing, but it's not quite. Instead, Kingsley could be likened to a Christopher Walken, who (aside from also being a pretty talented guy, despite his inability to say no to anything) is a good actor, but is even more of an onscreen presence. Good luck explaining the appeal of Walken (should the topic come up) to your grandkids. He's hilarious and captivating and a train wreck all at the same time - and is otherwise incapable of being labeled.

Kingsley, meanwhile, has more serious acting chops, but is just as hard to pin down. He literally commands your attention when he's on the screen, even in a quiet role like the one he plays in You Kill Me, the latest from director John Dahl (Rounders, The Last Seduction). Despite being a somewhat slight man (5'8" and trim as can be for a 63-year old), he's larger than life, as evidenced by his commanding, twisted role in Sexy Beast.

In You Kill Me, Kingsley plays a Buffalo (NY) hit man who just happens to also be an alcoholic - and it seems as though the booze has gotten in the way of the way more than once. As such, his family (who he works for) sends him out on a forced vacation to San Francisco. The orders? Get dry or die.

It's a somewhat sitcom-ish plot (and it shares a "killer who goes to AA" storyline with the recent Mr. Brooks), but good direction from Dahl and a sharp, funny script (from Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely - a writing team, apparently) keep the movie flowing at a brisk pace and never let you think about the somewhat absurd/whimsical nature of it all, even when Kingsley's Frank starts dating Tea Leoni (who, at 41 could be Kingsley's daughter).

To the contrary, Leoni is a welcome sight here. She's not been seen much since getting married (to David Duchovny) and having children, but she's a big part of what makes the movie work. The rest of the cast is filled out with some notable character actors, including Dennis Farina (in an all-time stretch playing an Irishman), Philip Baker Hall, and Bill Pullman (almost unrecognizable, but nice to see). Luke Wilson also plays a supporting character in the truest sense, and does a nice job of doing just that. As a mentor to Frank, his Tom is a crutch for Frank and provides some of the comic relief.

The bottom line is that the film plays out more or less like Grosse Pointe Blank, minus the high school angst and 80s music, and plus some alkies and DeVotchka.* And, like the Cusack vehicle, what it lacks in believability and relatability, it more than makes up for with humor, style, and charm. Nostrovia!

Fletch's Film Rating:

"It's in the hole!"

Yes, Dahl got my attention right away by using a Devotchka song over the opening credits (a good segment involving shovelling snow and a bottle of vodka). If you're not familiar with the band, they're a Colorado band that, upon hearing, you would swear are not an American band, as they mesh many Eastern European (and French and American) sounds into a big, awesome stew. If you saw Little Miss Sunshine, their music was featured prominently throughout the film, but especially during the opening credits. They are the most interesting band in America - check them out.

3 people have chosen wisely: on "Fletch's Film Review: You Kill Me"

General Disdain said...

I've got this movie on my "To Watch" list. Thanks for heads up.

Derrich said...

I'm kinda looking forward to seeing this movie. Good review. It definitely put me over the fence. Helps that Tia is pretty hot and Kingsley was in Entourage. You know...it's the unimportant intangibles like that that do it for me. :)

steve said...

Saw "You Kill Me" this weekend, per your advice... Great movie.