Frank Falenczyk loves his job. He just happens to be the hitman 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.
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.
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