Lucky Number Slevin (2006) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

Scoop's notes

Lucky Number Slevin is a gangster picture about a sap who is in the wrong place at the wrong time. Slevin (Josh Hartnett) is really down on his luck, having recently lost his girl, his apartment and his job. A visit to his old friend Nick in New York seems like just the medicine he needs, except that when he arrives in Nick's neighborhood he is immediately mugged, and then ol' Nick is not even in the apartment where he should have been. No sooner does Slevin settle in at Nick's place than some nasty gangsters show up looking for Nick, and they cannot be convinced that Slevin is not the man they want, given that his wallet and all of his IDs were stolen by the mugger. 

His luck is going to get even worse.

It seems that ol' Nick had built up some debts with the kind of men that one should not owe money to. Nick has skipped town, leaving Slevin to take the rap for him. Worst of all, Nick was in debt to two rival gangsters (Morgan Freeman and Gandhi ... er ... SIR Gandhi), and they both have ugly plans for him. The matter is further complicated by the presence of a mysterious hit man (Bruce Willis), and a cop who has all the gangsters under surveillance.

Or at least that's what the film appears to be about ... if you catch my drift.

When I saw the trailer for this film I was convinced that I was going to love it. It seemed to be The Usual Suspects with snappier patter. Great combination. I love jaunty banter, and Suspects is one of my favorite films. Then I saw the reviews. Only about half of the American reviews were positive, and the British reviews were weak across-the-board. I brushed that reaction off. I figured Slevin was just the type of film that critics always underappreciate. Even The Usual Suspects itself received only two stars from Roger Ebert.

Sigh. I'm sad to report that I was hornswaggled by the trailer. It's not the great film that I imagined it to be. It's derivative of both Suspects and Pulp Fiction, the resolution is disappointingly predictable, and it's complicated without really being complex. The characters are the usual thinly-drawn eccentrics found in this genre, giving the film the quirkiness of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, but without the heart and depth. The violence is not particularly creative, and when the script does try to exercise a little imagination it normally comes out too implausible for all but the most credulous. Worst of all, the dialogue in most of the film is just the conventional and familiar kinds of talk that we now see in just about every gangster film. Slevin, the Josh Hartnett character, did have some good exchanges, but they are almost all in the trailer.

Lucky Number Slevin does have some great ideas and some great moments, and it is like The Usual Suspects in more ways than I first suspected. It also has a good cast of top-notch pros, and it's a cool enough movie to offer a pleasant watch if you like the kind of film where nothing is as it seems. I do like that kind of movie, and I never considered reaching for the pause or fast-forward buttons, so I recommend it for my fellow genre buffs. Although the film got so-so reviews and did a mediocre $22 million at the box office, it has developed a fairly good  genre following. Based on the IMDb comments, many people seem to like it as much as I thought I would, and it rates a solid, near-great 7.6 on their scale.

Bottom line:

It's a good genre effort, but it's not the film I hoped it would be, not that great film to plan your evening around. Noir and thriller buffs will find it too familiar and insufficiently witty to be a great genre classic, while mainstream viewers will find it too dark and much too complicated.



  • Commentary by actors Josh Hartnett and Lucy Liu and writer Jason Smilovic
  • Commentary by director Paul McGuigan
  • "Making Lucky Number Slevin" featurette
  • Deleted scenes and alternate ending



Jennifer Miller - breasts in a rear-entry sex scene

Sebastien Roberts shows his butt in the same scene

Lucy Liu - may show one nipple in a sex scene with Hartnett, or it may be fabric.

Tuna's notes

Lucky Number Slevin is a crime drama where nothing is what it seems, although it takes most of the film to reveal that fact. It was a huge relief for me, because the plot was not adding up for me until we started getting those revelations. We are led to believe that Josh Hartnett is down on his luck.  He lost his job, his apartment was condemned and he caught his girlfriend (Jennifer Miller) cheating on him. He's visiting an old friend in New York, and is mistaken for his friend, who owes big money to two crime bosses that hate each other. Since he was mugged just before getting to his buddy's apartment, he has no proof of his identity.  He confides his recent bad luck to her. She no sooner leaves than Two goons take him to one of the mob leaders. He is given an offer he can't refuse. Not long after, he is hauled in to meet the other. We are also introduced to Bruce Willis, a famous assassin.

In addition to those already mentioned, the cast includes Morgan Freeman, Sir Ben Kingsley, Stanley Tucci and Danny Aeillo. There was not a bad performance in the film, but for me the show was stolen by a high energy performance from Lucy Liu, as a coroner who lives across the hallways from Hartnett's missing friend.

Generally, I get really upset when a director tells me at the end that nothing I just saw was real, but in this case everyone else in the film is also being duped by Slevin, which somehow makes it OK. In fact, the director went so far as to desaturate everything that wasn't true as a clue. I am not at all sorry I saw it.  Genre lovers will enjoy it. I think the high current IMDb score is likely to drop a little, putting it in the high 6s where it probably belongs.

The Critics Vote ...

  • Super-panel consensus: two and a half out of four stars. James Berardinelli 3/4, Roger Ebert 2/4

  • British consensus: about two stars out of four. Mail 6/10, Telegraph 4/10, Guardian 4/10, Times 4/10, Sun 6/10, Express 6/10, Mirror 4/10, FT 4/10, BBC 3/5.


The People Vote ...

  • Box Office Mojo. It opened in about 2000 theaters, finishing in fifth place with a $7 million weekend. It kept about on the same pace and finished with $22 million.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

Our own guideline:

  • A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre.
  • B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. In order to rate at least a B-, a film should be both a critical and commercial success. Exceptions: (1) We will occasionally rate a film B- with good popular acceptance and bad reviews, if we believe the critics have severely underrated a film. (2) We may also assign a B- or better to a well-reviewed film which did not do well at the box office if we feel that the fault lay in the marketing of the film, and that the film might have been a hit if people had known about it. (Like, for example, The Waterdance.)
  • C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by people who enjoy this kind of movie. If this is your kind of movie, a C+ and an A are indistinguishable to you.
  • C means it is competent, but uninspired genre fare. People who like this kind of movie will think it satisfactory. Others probably will not.
  • C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie, but genre addicts find it watchable. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film, but films with this rating should be approached with caution by mainstream audiences, who may find them incompetent or repulsive or both. If this is NOT your kind of movie, a C- and an E are indistinguishable to you.
  • D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-. Films rated below C- generally have both bad reviews and poor popular acceptance.
  • E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre.
  • F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.


Based on this description, bottom line: not a great genre film, but a good one, a solid C on our scale. I do recommend it for my fellow genre buffs, but it's too complicated and too dark to be a crossover hit, and it's too predictable and not witty enough to be a great genre classic.

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