Andrew Garfield, Mahershala Ali, Ruth Negga, and five others received their first-ever acting nominations for 2017. While these actors are new to the Academy Awards, you may recognize them from their earlier work.
Frank Falenczyk loves his job. He just happens to be the hit-man for his Polish mob family in Buffalo, New York. But Frank's got a drinking problem and when he messes up a critical assignment that puts the family business in peril, his uncle sends him to San Francisco to clean up his act. Frank is not a touchy-feely kind of guy, but he starts going to AA meetings, gets a sponsor and a job at a mortuary where he falls for the tart-tongued Laurel, a woman who is dangerously devoid of boundaries. Meanwhile, things aren't going well in Buffalo where an upstart Irish gang is threatening the family business. When violence erupts, Frank is forced to return home and with an unlikely assist from Laurel, faces old rivals on new terms. Written by
"You Kill Me" is as dark a comedy as you can get. It may also be the first artistically successful romantic comedy noir. Directed by John Dahl (best known for his indie-noirs "Red Rock West" and "The Last Seduction" and the underrated killer trucker flick "Joyride"), the film depicts a hit man (Ben Kingsley-deep in character) forced into Alcoholics Anonymous by his "family" because his drinking has been affecting his ability to kill people. Shipped off to San Franscisco to start his 12 Steps, he picks up a part-time gig at a funeral home and meets a sassy single woman with "boundary issues" (Tea Leoni-hilarious) after her step-dad dies and proceeds to start an unconventional romance with her while struggling to stay on the wagon and learn how to kill again.
The film starts off very low key, and Dahl keeps such a consistently dark tone it's hard to adjust to the cadence. As good as Kingsley is here, the show really belongs to Leoni. When she finally arrives on the scene, the film reaches a level of hilarity you weren't expecting. Her facial expressions, comic timing, and interplay with Kingsley as she learns the truth about his past are pure gold. Leoni has had her fair share of commercial successes ("Bad Boys," "Deep Impact," "The Family Man", and "Jurassic Park III") but it's in this type of offbeat low-budget comedy where she really shines. She was dynamite in "Flirting with Disaster" and was the best foil for Woody Allen since Diane Keaton in the otherwise forgettable "Hollywood Ending." Here all her comic charms are on display, and she proves that at the age of 40, she is aging not only gracefully and naturally, but with all her sexiness and innate talents in tact.
While the film goes through the predictable motions in its final act, it's the gooey goodness of the middle portion (especially one laugh-out-loud montage of Leoni helping Kingsley train for his return to "work") that will leave a smile on your face, with Leoni's luminosity as a comedic actress scorched into your mind.
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