June 29, 2007

Movie Review: You Kill Me

An interesting, if not completely successful unlikely romantic comedy, You Kill Me offers up some decent dry laughs in a movie that stretches the ludicrous plot line to the breaking point. It seems like another story within the Matador universe, where hitmen ar drunks, meet and make friends with the most unlikely of people, and find a way to keep doing what they're doing. John Dahl's effort is not wasted, yet the screenplay and editing do not quite line up to make this a winning indie dramedy.

The story has Ben Kingsley playing Frank Falenczyk, a Polish hitman in Buffalo. Frank is good at his job, so he says, but he has a problem. You see, Frank is a drunk, and he may be a better drunk than he is a killer. His drinking is evidenced by the clever, opening which has Frank going outside, after having his first drink, to shovel the front walk. He steps onto the porch, takes a swig of vodka and tosses the bottle into the snow ahead of him. He shovels his way to the bottle, takes a swig and repeats the process until the end of the walk is reached. Now, we all know that anyone that starts drinking so early has a problem, and it is going to have an effect on your work. That is the thrust of the plot. His drinking is interfering with his killer job and he is becoming a liability.

When he lets an Irish mob boss (Dennis Farina) get away, he is sent to San Francisco to join AA and get himself back into killer condition. Frank is not at all happy at this prospect, but goes. In order to make his time even more productive, he is given a job at a local mortuary, where he works magic with rouge and lipstick. While struggling with his newfound sobriety, he meets Laurel (Tea Leoni), who has had a family member pass on. The meet-cute leads to Frank trying on new shoes, honesty. What follows is a blossoming love between the unlikeliest of people.

While the unlikely love, and partial reforming of a killer is the main thrust of the story, is the main thrust, it is not the only story. Back in Buffalo the Irish are making a move on the Polish territory, so we get Dennis Farina, as Edward O'Leary, facing off with Philip Baker Hall's Roman Krzeminski. This is the main failing of the film, whenever we cut to this story, which we know will have a payoff in the inevitable finale, it is considerably less interesting. Every time the scene shifts away from Kingsley's dry Frank the movie loses steam and drops to a crawl. I found I did not care one iota for the mob war, I did care about Frank and Laurel.

You Kill Me lives in a world that could only exist in a movie. Only here will you find Ben Kingsley romancing Tea Leoni, while a gay Luke Wilson helps with the alcoholism. Only here will you find someone admit, to a group of strangers no less, that they are a killer for money and have it shrugged off like it was nothing. Some of the situations stretch even movie believability, but Kingsley and Leoni carry it off and make you believe. If not for the Buffalo scenes, I may have been able to suspend the disbelief, but the disjointed feeling that they induced succeeded at taking me out of the moment.

Still, the movie is quite entertaining, and Ben Kingsley is perfect as Frank. The dry, sarcastic humor paired with some great expressions are spot on. Tea Leoni, whose Laurel possesses a sharp wit, also does well at making us think that she may fall for someone like Frank. The rest of the cast is OK, even Philip Baker Hall, who will forever be Bookman the Library Cop to me.

Bottomline. The film does offer some good laughs and works as an opposites attract comedy, but the concept is stronger than the resulting script. It sags at times and the dramatic mob issues never really take hold and make me care, they only serve to take me away from what I did care about. Kingsley is a delight and is reason enough to give this a shot.

Mildly Recommended.


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