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"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
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.
This film has been advertised as a thriller. The pacing of this film is
very slow and much too slow to be classified as a thriller. If you
watch this expecting a movie full of action and suspense you will be
Here's what's good about this film. All the talent that has been brought to this project has been first rate. The writing is excellent. All the actors down to the very minor ones nail their characters and deliver superb believable performances. The cinematography, sound and other technical elements are 'invisible,' which means that those aspects of the film have been done flawlessly.
The movie is very funny with many laughs. The comedy emerges from the situations as everyone in the film plays it straight as if it were a drama.
It takes a very skilled director to pull off this type of story successfully. Minor flaws can make it not work. This film works.
I think if you drop your fast paced thriller expectations for this film you will find it extremely enjoyable.
Hollywood loves assassins. You can't go more than a few weeks without a
new hit-man movie hitting (sorry) the multiplexes. Hell, later this
year, there's a movie coming out literally called "Hitman".
The new trend seems to be putting comedic twists on the assassin film. I guess we can thank Tarantino for that. Within the past few years, stuff like "Mr.& Mrs. Smith", "The Whole Nine Yards", "The Matador", "Grosse Pointe Blank", and "Lucky Number Slevin" gave us clever little plays on the assassin genre. If you're at all familiar with those films, you'll feel right at home with "You Kill Me".
Ben Kingsley plays Frank Falenczyk, a hit-man for the Polish Mob out of Buffalo, New York. Frank's an alcoholic, and recently it's been affecting his work. As a result, his superiors send him to San Francisco to attend Alcoholics Anonymous until he can sober up.
The movie doesn't win any points for originality, but it does have a lot to offer. Kingsley puts on a capable, sympathetic show - pretty impressive for a guy who spends the majority of the film getting hammered. Téa Leoni does well enough as the obligatory love interest. The age difference took a little getting used to. Dennis Farina and Philip Baker Hall are a treat to watch playing essentially the same roles they've been playing forever. Hall is the soft spoken head of the Polish Mob Family, while Farina is the loudmouth villain heading up the Italians. Bill Pullman also has a small role as a sleazy real estate agent. Anyone who's seen "Lucky Numbers" knows that Pullman has a talent for quirky lowlifes, and he shines here.
This is a very light movie. It won't blow you away in any regards, but it is a solid 90 minutes of easy entertainment. The script is essentially Frank's struggle to fight his habit. We also get a light love story and a touch of crime thriller. It's a strange juggling act, but Kingsley and director John Dahl pull it off. Don't get discouraged by the bland name. With just enough laughs, drama, and action this is a small movie than just about anybody can have fun with.
Far from perfect its absolutely charming with a super cast headed by
Ben Kingsley as a hit-man with a drinking problem. Sent from Buffalo to
San Fransisco to dry out when he blows a hit, Kingsley attempts to get
his life in order.
Funny, touching and atypical, no one is really a cliché. As I said its not perfect, it meanders a bit too much and the mob stuff is a bit worn but its still a charming film. I think the whole things works thanks to the across the board excellent performances. First and foremost is Ben Kingsley who once again proves himself to be one of the finest comedic actors working today.
This is one of those movies you like with your heart more than with your head. This is one to see and share with as many people as you can force into seeing it.
Quite uneven and rather heavy treatment of some topics meant to be
amusing, but still, a pleasant change of pace from slasher or crasher
movies. Kingsley is a drunken mobster somewhat unconvincingly told to
attend AA by his godfather or boss or whatever.
In the end, this is the sort of pleasing yet non-filling confection of a movie which is suitable for couple to go to without compromise - or perhaps it's the perfect compromise.
It has enough guys running around with firearms to suit the men. It has Tea Leoni as a strange beautiful woman so there's some romance for the women. It has Ben Kingsley who looks 40 years older than Leoni involved in a romance with her which should satisfy something in most people, even if I'm unsure what.
Like most movies today, this one demands a huge suspension of disbelief not only about the gangster snow plow wars of Buffalo, but why Chinese want in on a piece of that action, how mobsters care for each other and if some homely old grunt can really get and hold a very hot Hollywood star girl.
Still, I'll take it over the current clash or crash offerings.
This little dark comedy is made a real treat by the professional,
understated acting by all of its stars and direction that has produced
pure entertainment rather than a silly mess.
The plot of the film couldn't be any more far-fetched. Frank Falenczyk, a hit man for a low-level crime family in Albany, New York, is not performing well because he has an alcohol problem. He is sent to kill the boss of a crime group who is muscling in on the territory. Instead of doing his job, he passes out from drink in his car while waiting. What follows is probably the weirdest family intervention scene ever filmed in which Frank's boss and other members of the crime family tell him that he must go to San Francisco to seek rehabilitation.
Frank is packed off to San Francisco, but it is clear his heart is not into the rehabilitation idea for his first two purchases are a gun and a bottle of vodka. He goes to an AA meeting and views the whole process with disdain. After leaving the meeting early, he is approached by Dave the realtor who arranged for Frank's apartment and a job as an undertaker's assistant. Dave has some sort of connection with Albany, and Frank is told in no uncertain terms that this is his last chance. Dave assures Frank that he will be reporting regularly to the head of the crime family back East.
With no other choice, Frank starts going to the meetings where he meets Tom. Tom is a gay toll booth attendant at the Golden Gate Bridge who is wise to the ways of AA. One of the elements that impressed me about the script of this film is how Tom's character is handled. Yes, he is gay, but there is no gay angst associated with his character, and there no Gay Tom subplot. Tom is just a normal guy who just happens to be gay - a refreshing change to the way most gay characters are dealt with in films.
Laurel shows up at the funeral parlor with a pair of bowling shoes for her dead stepfather, and Frank is immediately attracted as it is clear that she is no shrinking violet when it comes to the harsher realities of life. They begin dating.
Putting all of these elements together could have easily produced an over-the-top mess of absurdity, but You Kill Me is not. Instead - as alluded to regarding the character of Tom - it is a perfect blend of excellent acting and subtle direction that produces unadulterated entertainment.
The cast is headed by Ben Kingsley playing Frank, and Kingsley gives us a man we can believe can murder in cold blood, yet possess the weaknesses of a man addicted to alcohol and smitten by a sassy woman.
As for that sassy woman, Téa Leoni is perfect in the part. Her voice and facial expressions convey worlds of irony mixed with amazement when it comes to her character's relationship with a killer.
Luke Wilson gives a wonderfully understated performance as Tom. Dave is played to his quirky best by Bill Pullman, and the respective leaders of the "good" and "bad" crime families are given credible umph by Philip Baker Hall and Dennis Farina.
Add numerous other distinctive character types revolving around these main characters and tons of incredibly witty lines delivered by Frank and his friends, and you have an extremely entertaining - although very dark - comedy.
"You Kill Me" has a raw, edgy feel that maintains a nice sense of tension throughout the movie keeping the audience off balance. This comedy drama, somewhat dark movie has great subtle wit and humor sparkled throughout the movie as well as a sensitive treatment and paradox of substance abuse AA treatment. Bill Pullman, surprisingly gets to expand his usual character into a more colorful display while Ben Kingsley is his usual competent self. Tea Leoni who also is an executive producer gets to go along for the ride. This movie continues the increasingly smooth blend of comedy-drama into the societal topics of interest. A fun, creative, touching entertainment from IFC films. Eight out Ten Stars.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Ben Kingsley plays a drunk hit man. Worst of all his drunkenness
accounts for a hit going awry - he sleeps through it, stoned - so he's
shipped off to San Francisco to get dry. There he comes under the
tutelage of Bill Pullman who puts him into AA and a job as an
undertaker's assistant ("right up your alley"). Initially refusing to
be directed he succumbs when he's made an offer he can't refuse. Do it
or you know what! Not that Pullman can pull that off. He's a frumpy
mess of a guy, connected to the mob, and with as much testosterone as a
Tea Leoni shows up while he's doing the make up on a corpse, her much despised step father, with some bowling shoes to deck him up in. They turn out to be too small (she'd stolen them from a bowling alley), and Kingsley offers to "break some toes" to make them fit. A relationship has sown it's first seeds. Kingsley's straight on demeanor interests Leoni, who's burnt out on men, wary and cold. What she has going for her though is humor laced with acid. Reluctantly she allows Kingsley to maneuver her into seeing him, and she edges into the relationship.
Soon enough she finds out she's dating not only a drunk (reforming at times) but a hit man. This she discovers in one of the movies best scenes (Leoni's slow double takes are priceless!) when Kingsley explains to an enthralled AA meeting what he does for a living, and how alcohol is stopping him from doing it. By this time we are so smitten by the movie that we root for him to be dry long enough so he can get back to his job!
This is a wonderful vehicle for Tea Leoni's dry, dead pan, ironic delivery. As she produced it I have little doubt she either had a hand in the script or had shopped around for one to suit her style. I was hesitant to see this simply because I had confused her recent characters (Jurassic park 3, Spanglish) as being her: shrill, neurotic, psychologically toxic. She's not playing a nice character here either, but she's dropped the twitchy mannerisms, and gone back to the work she did on TV that brought her to fame. Quirky, yes, but drop dead funny!Keen, sharp and scintillating with her tongue.
Kingsley is good, but dozens of actors could have pulled this off as well. Pullman is great, his preppy looks smooshed behind coke bottle glasses, and large old suits that make him look weak and decadent. But the movie belongs to Leoni!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This movie stars Ben Kingsley as Frank, a hit man for some Russian
mobsters based out of Buffalo. He is also a raging alcoholic, and this
has caused his job performance to decline. After he falls asleep in his
car during a would-be hit, his mob boss uncle sends him to San
Francisco, where he is to attend AA meetings and get a job as a
mortician's assistant. If you're thinking that this makes absolutely no
sense, you're not alone.
It gets worse. Well, it actually gets better, but not before getting much, much worse. Frank suddenly becomes a master mortician in spite of a complete lack of training, but his reactions with the people in the funeral home and the AA meetings are interesting. The viewer starts to root for him as they notice positive changes in his life. Luke Wilson is a welcome addition as Frank's sponsor, although he is given almost nothing to do (his character does tell us he is gay, but this ends up having no significance whatsoever). The movie plunges headlong into idiocy with the introduction of the Tea Leoni character. She is completely unrealistic, and her role as a love interest to Frank flounders, as the two actors have no chemistry together. Around the time she comes into the picture, Frank becomes much less engrossing as a character. His characterization is seemingly random; there is no consistency in his behavior. The comedy is low-key and only intermittently funny, especially disappointing considering the comedic pedigree of the cast.
Problems abound in this one. Kingsley's accent is terrible and inconsistent. It alternates between Italian, Russian, and Hispanic. Throughout the course of the movie, Frank tells numerous people he is a hit man (including an entire AA group), but nobody seems to care, or wants to do anything about it. The movie relies on cliché scenes to carry it through its final act, most notably when Leoni's insufferable character chases Frank down at the airport, just when he is about to board a flight back to Buffalo.
Though it has a strong premise and an interesting first half-hour, the movie quickly becomes a total disaster and devolves into complete nonsense. At the end of the film, Frank celebrates one year of sobriety. I hope to celebrate many, many years of not having seen "You Kill Me".
My Grade: D+
THE GOOD - A very interesting film, start-to-finish, with a little
action, romance, humor, melodrama, suspense....a good combination of a
lot of things. The acting is good, led by the always-fascinating Ben
Kingsley who plays the lead role. There was a good contrast in the
areas: the snowy cold of winter in Buffalo and the dry and brighter
look of San Francisco. I like the supporting actors in here, beginning
with Dennis Farina as "O'Leary." He's another actor that always gets
your attention. The movie also gives a nice plug for Alcoholics
Anonymous. I kept waiting the smart remarks about it, but they
surprised me on that one. Respect was given for the no-nonsense
approach given by that famous organization which has helped a lot of
THE BAD - Even though it's "dark humor," the messages in here are in frequently enough that I believe Hollywood, in its twisted thinking, would actually go along with a lot of opinions expressed such as alcoholism being a more serious problem than being a hit-man! (Hey, they are only shooting other bad guys, right?) Tea Leoni's character was stupid and too profane. No woman, especially someone with her looks and brains, would go for an aging, drunk-killer. Puh-leeze. Also, being from the Buffalo area, I didn't care for the cheap shots on the city, either. People here are tired of that.
OVERALL - Despite a few things, like Leoni, that were a little sleazy and unrealistic, I found the movie a good one in that it entertained me all the way. This is a strange film, certainly not one that is going to be a hit with the public but if you like something different, something a little "dark" yet romantic, you'd probably like this film. It's quirky, which seems to be the kinds of films Kingsley has been doing the past decade ("Sexy Beast," "House Of Sand And Fog," etc.)
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