Slevin: This isn't the first time this has happened... Lindsey: You mean this isn't the first time a crime lord asked you to kill the gay son of a rival gangster to pay off a debt that belongs to your friend whose place you're staying in as a result of losing your job, your apartment, and finding your girlfriend in bed with another guy? Slevin: No, this is the first time that happened.
A 2006 Black ComedyThriller mixed with Film Noir style, Lucky Number Slevin (released, bizarrely, as The Wrong Man only in Australia) The film features an all-star cast comprised of Josh Hartnett, Lucy Liu, Ben Kingsley, Morgan Freeman, and Bruce Willis.The movie opens with Smith telling a stranger of a Kansas City Shuffle, recounting of an old horse race where a trainer tries to fix a race with a "drugstore handicap".note By drugging a strong horse, it can be made it a minor contender; by then taking it off the drugs for a specific race, its strong and unexpected performance boost allows a surprise win despite awful winning odds. In other words, people who know of the fix can stick lots of cash on the bet and win big easily. He tells a friend, who tells a friend, before it soon hits a family man Max; betting huge cash he doesn't have, Max then watches in horror when the horse breaks its leg on the home stretch. The bookie's associates decide to make an example of Max, beating and suffocating him after having hitmen murder his wife and son. Ending the story, Smith clarifies that the story itself isn't a shuffle, and points off to the man's left; slipping to the right, Smith breaks his neck.Meanwhile, 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 taken in by two groups of thugs: the first belonging to "The Boss", a gangster demanding payment on $96,000 of debt; and the second The Boss' nemesis, "The Rabbi", who also wants debts paying, which total $33,000. Owing a vast amount to both with little time to pay, compounded with the fact neither entertaining the idea he isn't Nick, Slevin then finds himself trapped further when The Boss offers to wipe the larger debt provided he assassinate The Rabbi's son. Of course, things get worse when it's clear Smith is somehow tied into it all, and everyone seems to have their own motives...Borrowing heavily from several sources, such as Tarantino storytelling (e.g. inconsistent ordering and cutaways) and Hitchcock plots (most notably North by Northwest), Lucky Number Slevin was received well enough to be a Cult Classic of sorts, despite a cold critical reception. The movie is notable as the final film to co-star Bruce Willis with hair, and is the Trope Namer for Kansas City Shuffle through one its songs (and a murderous tactic by Willis' character).
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.
Churchgoing Villain: Discussed when Slevin meets with The Rabbi, a gangster who is also a Rabbi, and asks him how he reconciles his faith with his chosen career. At first, the Rabbi admits that he's a bad guy and doesn't waste time wondering about What Ifs. Later, though, he provides an example of how he skirts the rules of the Jewish faith, such as claiming that he could have killed Slevin and then claimed it was self-defense.
Close-Up on Head: The film alternates between two of these at the end to hide the exact circumstances of the Rabbi and the Boss.
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.
The Boss: Do you know what I wanted to see you about? Slevin: No. The Boss: Then how do you know I have the wrong guy? Slevin: Because I'm not— The Boss: Maybe I wanted to give you $96,000; in that case, do I still have the wrong guy? Slevin: Do you want to give me $96,000? The Boss: No, do you want to give me $96,000? Slevin: No, should I? The Boss: I don't know, should you? Slevin: I don't know, should I?
Divide and Conquer: Slevin had been playing a con the entire movie to kill both the mob bosses by setting them against each other. He also puts himself in the middle of it by appearing like a harmless bystander, but eventually he gets his revenge for the murder of his parents, two decades in the making.
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.
Mamet Speak: Very common, such as when Slevin recognizes Slim Hopkins in the paper:
Lindsey: What is it? Slevin: I know this guy. Lindsey: Who? Slevin: This guy. Lindsey: You know that guy? Slevin: I met him. He was dead. Lindsey: You met a dead guy? Slevin: Yeah, in a walk-in freezer.
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.
Mossad: Yitzhak, the Rabbi's son, has a pair of ex-Mossad bodyguards.
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.
Pinball Protagonist: Slevin Kelevra is apparently this during the beginning of the film, before the Kansas City Shuffle and Slevin's true intentions are revealed
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.
Straight Gay: The Fairy, for the most part (despite the name).
A Taste Of Their Own Medicine: The mobster known as 'The Boss' orders a hit on Yitzchok the Fairy, the son of a rival mobster known as 'The Rabbi', because he suspects the Rabbi of ordering a hit on his own son. At the end of the film, Slevin murders both The Boss and The Rabbi by suffocating them with plastic bags, the same way they killed his father.
Title Drop: "It was the name of the horse! The name of the horse was Lucky Number Slevin!"
Unfazed Everyman: Not alien or fantastical, but Slevin Kelevra shortly after the intro gets pulled into the world of mob bosses and hit men (by being mistaken for a dude that owes them a lot of money), but acts completely unfazed by most of his ordeals. Subverted though, in that he intended for all this to happen, so he could enact his revenge upon the mob bosses who killed his father.
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.