Slevin (Josh Harnett) is not having a good week. He lost his job and his girlfriend. He was mugged and his wallet and suitcase were stolen. He decided to visit a friend, who seems to have disappeared. But the door was unlocked, so he lets himelf in and takes a shower.
A pretty girl named Lindsay (Lucy Liu) from across the hall comes over while he is still wearing nothing but a towel. Some very nasty types arrive, convinced that he is the missing friend, who owes them a lot of money. They have a boss who wants to talk to him about it right away, still wearing the towel.
Slevin has landed in the middle of a war between two crime kingpins, The Rabbi (Ben Kingsley) and The Boss (Morgan Freeman). They each live in huge glass towers, facing each other. And they both believe Slevin is the man who owes them money and he gets caught in the middle of their efforts to destroy each other.
Slevin seems to take all of this in stride, never getting ruffled and tossing off wisecracks as people keep threatening him with the most violent and painful consequences for failing to take them seriously. He explains to Lindsay that he has a condition that keeps him from getting scared. But there are a few things he does not tell her that make for complications — and quite a body count.
There’s more style than substance here, but the style takes us pretty far, with some wicked wisecracks, some nicely twisty plot turns, and some very twisted characters. Harnett and Bruce Willis coolly underplay in contrast to Freeman and Kingsley, enjoying themselves with a bit of grand guignol. They achieve an immediate rhythm that has us on their side. The violence is gruesome, literal overkill, and as a result the effort to tie it all together at the end just doesn’t work. But the scenes with Liu and Hartnett have real sparkle — though she is tiny and he is very large, the two seem just right together that we want it to, and that’s close enough.
Parents should know that this movie is filled with adult material that is not appropriate for children or teenagers and for many adults. It has constant extreme and graphic violence with many characters injured and killed, including a child’s parents. Characters use constant extremely strong and profane language. There are sexual references and situations. Characters are criminals, involved in drug dealing and murder for hire. A gay character is the subject of some homophobic comments. Diverse characters are all equally vile, but a strength of the movie is the inter-racial romance.
Families who see this movie should talk about the different characters’ ideas about justice and where they came from.
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy The Usual Suspects.