The Rabbi: Your predicament reminds me of a story. Hitchcock. North by Northwest. The movie where everybody thinks Cary Grant is a man named George Kaplan, but the thing is there is no George Kaplan. It's just a made-up name, but names, even made-up ones...they can bring about quite a bit of trouble. Now, the woman in the picture with Grant, her name was, um... Slevin: Eva Marie Saint. The Rabbi: Oh, you know this movie. Slevin: I know this movie.
A 2006 thriller with some elements of a stylized Film Noir, Lucky Number Slevin (released, bizarrely, as The Wrong Man in Australia) plays with viewpoint and non-linear storytelling in a similar way to The Usual Suspects or a Quentin Tarantino flick. The film features an all-star cast comprised of Josh Hartnett, Lucy Liu, Ben Kingsley, Morgan Freeman, and Bruce Willis.The movie opens with a recount of an old horse race where one of the trainers tries to fix the race by drugging his horse. He tells his brother, who tells a friend, who tells another friend…and the cycle continues until word of the "drugstore handicap" eventually makes it back to Max, a family man looking to make a buck and put his kid through school. Max puts down a lot of money he doesn't have on the horse, thinking of the bet as a sure thing — but during the fateful race, the horse breaks its leg on the home stretch. The bookie who took the bet goes all out to collect the debt from Max: he has his goons beat — and kill — Max, sends more goons to kill Max's wife, and calls in a professional to kill Max's young son when none of his other goons will do the deed.Fast forward several years: an everyman named Slevin has just moved to New York City to stay at his buddy Nick's house after a week of misfortune. After meeting his quirky neighbor Lindsey, Slevin finds himself mistaken for Nick by thugs connected to a gangster known only as The Boss. Nick owes quite a bit of money to this man, and no one believes Slevin when he says The Boss shouldn't put him on the hook for the loan. Nick's debts complicate matters further when Slevin learns Nick also owes money to The Rabbi, a rival to The Boss who, in a very Shakespearan turn of events, lives right across the street from The Boss (in the exact same type of building, no less).Slevin finds himself trapped in the middle of the gangsters' cold war when The Boss asks him to assassinate The Rabbi's son to cover Nick's debt — but everyone has secrets in this Kansas City Shuffle...
Lucky Number Slevin provides examples of the following tropes:
Slevin: How'd you find out? Goodkat: I'm a world class assassin, fuckhead. How'd you think I found out?
There are even a few occasions where Slevin does this to just troll people. Especially when when he first meets the Boss and he explaining the ongoing situation to Slevin. At first, he's asking perfectly reasonable questions. Then at some point in the conversation, Slevin just starts pestering the Boss for kicks. He even has the audacity to grin before starting this line of questions.
Slevin: Why do they call him "The Fairy"? The Boss: Because he's a fairy. Slevin: What he has wings? He can fly? Sprinkle magic dust all over the place? The Boss: He's homosexual. Slevin: Right.
Asshole Victim: Nick Fisher, who seems entirely harmless at the start of the film, is revealed to have been a sex offender who served eight years in prison for forcing himself on a fourteen year old cheerleader.
Black and Gray Morality: There are no good guys. Even Slevin kills the sons of the gangsters who killed his parents, despite the fact that neither of them had ever harmed him personally.
Bilingual Bonus: If you speak Hebrew, you know that Slevin's last name (Kelevra) means "Bad Dog". It will not take long from there to guess that he has a connection to Goodkat. note Although with the different stress (kélev rá vs. kelévra, plus the fact that it's presented as one word, most Hebrew speakers wouldn't notice that it can be understood as Hebrew.
Chekhov's Gun: So, so many. First, you have the literal gun the Rabbi uses. It's seen in the beginning when one of the faceless men is torturing Max. Then the Rabbi threatens Slevin with it. There is also the Boss's ring, Slevin's watch, and the Fairy's necklace, just to name a few.
Chekhov's Skill: Max's son, Henry, is seen in the flashback wearing a baseball mitt and is promised a trip to a baseball game, showing he's got a passion for the sport. Fast forward twenty years and he's good enough to murder a bookie with a fastball to the head.
Deadpan Snarker: Slevin to a T. The Boss even mentions it: "Bet you it was that mouth that got you that [broken] nose." He claims that he has a condition that prevents him from taking anything seriously or worrying.
Downer Ending: The alternate ending on the DVD where Lindsey dies would count.
Dramatic Irony: When you watch the movie a second time, pay attention to everything The Boss and The Rabbi say.
Dungeon Bypass: Touched upon by The Fairy's bodyguards; they are in the next room, but they come through the (false) wall. However, Goodkat realizes that this is where they would come in, noticing that the wall is thin by the noise they make next door, and is able to ambush them.
Dumb Muscle: Slow. He and Elvis even discuss it in a deleted scene.
The Ending Changes Everything: Detective Brikowski reacts rather interestingly whenever Goodkat is mentioned. And look at Slevin reacting to the Boss calling himself a nice guy or hiding the fact that he is an assassin by saying, "I uh, I travel a lot."
Even Evil Has Standards: The mob have to bring in a specialist hitman because no one is willing to kill an innocent child. Turns out the hitman was not keen on the idea either...
Fanservice: Josh Hartnett shirtless for a good portion.
Flirting Under Fire: Slevin and Lindsey build up most of their romance in this manner. Despite the fact that Slevin is on the hit list of two warring gangs, he and Lindsey find time to flirt, go to dinner (where Slevin is able to shadow a man he has been told to kill), and spend a night together.
Foreshadowing: Slevin carries out his assassination mission with more effectiveness than The Everyman should, with easily spotting The Fairy's bodyguards and eluding them to get a date with him. That and his ability to communicate with extremely dangerous crime-bosses and withstand intimidation from the police is indicative of some experience with organized crime.
Slevin's precise read on his initial approach to The Fairy while he and Lindsey are having dinner also counts.
Freeze-Frame Bonus: A very cool, blink and you'll miss it moment - Goodkat and Slevin are looking for a common denominator between the Boss and the Rabbi. After Slevin hands the book off he sinks into a very casual, but still obvious Parade Rest/Stand at Ease sort of position, seemingly almost out of habit. That scene and his posture tell you everything you need to know about their relationship, assassin mentor and his apprentice.
Gambit Roulette: Several points in the plan are up to chance, most particularly The Boss picking a hitman who hasn't worked the city in question for years to do the deed. The plan where Slevin is counting on Goodkat not checking if Lindsey is dead. That Slevin would be able to pay his debt to the Rabbi in person, at night. Certainly, measures were taken to skew the probabilities in their favor, but none of it was guaranteed from the outset.
The Rabbi and his son, the Fairy. Why do they call him the Rabbi? Because he is a rabbi. Why do they call him the Fairy? Because he's a fairy.
Slevin: You mean he has wings, and flies around spreading pixie dust— The Boss:He's a homosexual.
Meaningful Echo: Brikowski mentions that Slevin should play ball, and he Literal Minded-ly remarks "You think I'm tall enough?"; later, it's revealed that Slevin literally plays ball when he murders a bookie with a thrown baseball.
Mob War: Between the Boss and the Rabbi. It has escalated to the point where neither can leave his penthouse for fear of being executed by the other.
Mood Whiplash: Almost every scene in this movie flips between deathly serious and absolutely hilarious; few scenes fall between the two extremes, and the film makes a point out of transitioning between these moods in an abrupt manner.
In the opening, Mr. Goodkat pretends to be confined to a wheelchair to enact a Kansas City Shuffle on a passenger in an airport, distracting him so he won't anticipate Goodkat getting out of his chair and break his neck.
Slevin's ataraxia (inability to experience worry in appropriate situations). It's unclear if Slevin actually has ataraxia or if he's just not worried because everything is actually going according to plan. Or both.
Obfuscating Stupidity: - Jeez, this movie plays with Obfuscation like a bandit. Slevin runs a fine line at this all throughout the movie. His stupidity isn't of the literal sort but the physical. Slevin's continuously firing quips at very violent people - two different sets of mooks and mob bosses, as well as the police and is constantly getting punched for it, as soon as physical violence comes into play, Slevin backs down (for a little while at least). It's a brilliant subversion of the idea, Slevin's actually a fairly accomplished hitman who's killed at least three people just to put himself in play. He straddles a line of aggravating people into hitting him, mixed with just not caring about the danger he's in. Little do his rivals know, he is planning on killing all of them. Sometimes, it's unclear if he's doing it on purpose so they underestimate him, because of his supposed ataraxia or if he just honestly pissing off all the people around him because he can.
Oh Crap: Slevin does this twice — once when Brikowski confronts him in the men's room at the restaurant, and once when Goodkat sees him with Lindsey, who's supposed to be dead. He recovers fairly quickly in both instances.
Only Known by Their Nickname: The Boss and The Rabbi, although we do hear the Rabbi's name from a couple of mooks early on. The ending has them referring to each other by their real names: Anthony and Shlomo.
Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Slevin does this in Best Served Cold form. The world-class assassin sent to kill Slevin ended up raising him instead, and as an adult, Slevin came back to kill the men who had his family killed.
Second Person Attack: The film does this with the death of The Rabbi's bookie (who died from having a baseball thrown at his head).
Shirtless Scene: Josh Hartnett spends about a third of the movie in this state — and not just shirtless.
Shout-Out: An "echo" variation: after Columbo gets mentioned, Slevin does a "just one more thing" to The Rabbi. James Bond gets mentioned just before Slevin gets the girl, who ends up (apparently) getting killed. North by Northwest gets a mention for the plot point of someone getting mistaken for a person who doesn't exist — shortly before the film reveals the truth about the protagonist's "real" identity.
Mykelti Williams' character has a noticeable physical tic where he constantly has his upper lip raised. In his most famous role — Bubba in Forrest Gump — he had a similar tic where his lower lip was constantly extended.
A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing: Slevin is constantly getting punched in the nose and the solar plexus, by...pretty much everyone he meets except Lindsey. The truth is he set up the "misidentification" of Nick Fisher to get close to the Rabbi and the Boss so he can get his revenge.
Wouldn't Hurt a Child: The Boss calls in a specialist to kill a child when none of his goons would do the job. The specialist can't bring himself to do it either.