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 Comedy Thriller mixed with Film Noir style, the film Lucky Number Slevin (released, bizarrely, as The Wrong Man only in Australia) 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 the story of an old horse race that a trainer tries to fix using a "drugstore handicap".note The trainer tells a friend, who tells a friend, and before long, the news reaches a family man named Max; after betting a load of cash that he doesn't have, Max 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. 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 Fisher's house after a week of misfortune. After meeting his quirky neighbor Lindsey, Slevin finds himself taken in by two groups of thugs who believe he is Nick Fisher. The first group belongs to "The Boss", a gangster who wants Fisher to pay back a $96,000 debt; the second belongs to The Boss' nemesis, "The Rabbi", who also wants Fisher to pay back a debt, this one $33,000. Neither man seems willing to cut "Fisher" some slack—until The Boss offers to wipe out the larger debt if "Nick" can assassinate The Rabbi's son as an act of revenge. Of course, things get worse when it's clear Smith is somehow tied into it all, everyone seems to have their own motives, and there is more to Slevin's arrival in New York than meets the eye...
Lucky Number Slevin borrows several storytelling techniques from numerous sources, the most notable being Tarantino storytelling (e.g., inconsistent ordering and cutaways) and Hitchcock plots (most notably North by Northwest). The film has become something of a Cult Classic in spite of a cold critical reception; it is also the final film to feature Bruce Willis with hair.
Lucky Number Slevin contains the following tropes:
- Actually, That's My Assistant: When Slevin first meets the Boss.
- Ask a Stupid Question.../Captain Obvious: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 he first meets The Boss, who explains his 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.
- There are even a few occasions where Slevin does this to just troll people—especially when he first meets The Boss, who explains his 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.
- Asshole Victim:
- Both The Boss and The Rabbi.
- 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.
- Detective Brikowski, while initially coming across as something of a Cowboy Cop, is ultimately revealed to be a much worse person, having been the triggerman who killed Slevin's mother 20 years ago.
- Bash Brothers: Slevin and Goodkat.
- Beware the Silly Ones: Slevin has a smart mouth, but he doesn't come off as a particularly dangerous or vengeful presence. He's actually a cold and controlled hitman who is manipulating everyone else in the cast except for Goodkat (and later Lindsey).
- 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
- Bookends: The film ends in the same airport terminal it started in, though it is empty the first time and full the second.
- Bury Your Gays: The Fairy.
- Cadre of Foreign Bodyguards: The Rabbi hires two Badass Israeli bodyguards to protect his son from assassination.
- 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 Gunman: Max's son.
- 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.
- The Chessmaster: Goodkat and Slevin.
- 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.
- Danger Takes a Backseat: Detective Brikowski is killed in this manner.
- 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.
- Decoy Protagonist: The scene at the airport makes it look a lot like the protagonist will be Nick Fisher, or, on the outside, Smith. Smith breaks his neck and then we're introduced to Slevin.
- Department of Redundancy Department: When Slevin first meets The Boss:The Boss: Do you know what I wanted to see you about?
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?
- Didn't Think This Through: The moment Max gets the call about a fixed race horse he can't run to the bookie to lay down a giant bet he can't pay fast enough. The bookie even warns him about the consequences, but Max is convinced he has a sure thing.
- Doomed Protagonist: For all of Max's rich stupidity documented further on down, he doesn't come across as a particularly bad guy, and is actually more likable than most of the other characters in the film. He's not a scheming mobster or a violent thug, he's just a guy tired of raising a family in a hole in the wall, and wants to give his wife and son a better life.
- Dirty Cop: Detective Brikowski.
- 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.
- 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."
- Enemy Civil War: Originally the Boss and the Rabbi were allies. Then the Rabbi tried to have the Boss killed because, well, only one man can be The Boss. The Boss's wife died and he took six bullets to the chest, but he was able to save his son. They've been in self-imposed Sealed Evil in a Can status ever since.
- 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...
- Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The Boss, The Rabbi, The Fairy, and Goodkat.
- Fake Defector: The way Sleven plays both sides.
- Fanservice: Josh Hartnett spends a good portion of the movie wearing nothing but a towel.
- 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.
- 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.
- Gayngster: The Fairy.
- Genki Girl: Lindsay is adorable.
- Guns Akimbo: Goodkat — just look at the image for this page. He makes short work of The Fairy's bodyguards this way.
- Henway: One of The Fairy's body guards makes a couple of these in a deleted scene."What's a whoredo?""She has sex with you for money!"
- Hitman with a Heart:
- Mr. Goodkat was the contract killer whom the bosses hired to kill little Slevin. Goodkat couldn't go through with it, and raised the kid in his own trade so that one day he could get his revenge.
- Slevin himself is revealed to have become an assassin under Goodkat's mantle, but he's actually a pretty nice guy off the clock, such that nobody suspects him until it's too late.
- Ignorant of Their Own Ignorance: Max, ironically, thinks of himself as a pretty smart guy who's cleverly found a way out of his poverty. The only thing he's found a way into is a shallow grave.
- Improvised Weapon: The killer in the opening sequence kills a bookie by throwing a baseball. Into his eye.
- In the Style of...: The lightning-fast dialogue with constant references to other films and tv shows, black comedy, and non-linear storytelling can't fail to make one think of Tarantino.
- Ironic Nickname: The bookie "Slim" is rather portly.
- It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time: Sure, Max, bet on the fixed race horse through less than legal channels. What could possibly go wrong?
- Kansas City Shuffle: The Boss and The Rabbi both assume the other is using Slevin to somehow con them, and thus begin trying to manipulate Slevin to exploit their enemy's con. The true con turns out to be from Slevin himself, who just wanted access to both The Boss and The Rabbi so he could exact revenge for the death of his parents. Also discussed by Goodkat with the man he meets at the airport, the real Nick Fisher before he enacts a simple variant to kill him, and in the song "The Kansas City Shuffle".Song: Whereas you look left and they fall right into the Kansas City Shuffle. Its a they-think you-think you don't know type of Kansas City hustle.
- Kosher Nostra: The Rabbi's gang.
- The Killer Becomes the Killed: The Boss, The Rabbi, and Detective Brikowski.
- Letters 2 Numbers: The second "L" in the title is an upside down 7, though how we're supposed to pronounce that is anyone's guess. Lucky Number Su-sevin, perhaps?
- Lucky Charms Title: Marketed occasionally as Lucky # Slevin (see the picture) or Lucky Number Sㄥevin
- Lucky Seven: Referenced in the movie title, which is a pun on the phrase and the main character's name.
- Make It Look Like an Accident: "It can't look like a hit."
- Mamet Speak: Very common, such as when Slevin recognizes Slim Hopkins in the paper:Lindsey: What is it?
Slevin: I know this guy.
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.
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Lindsay. Subverted in that Slevin turns out not to be The Every Man who needs a "kick" in his boring life. The emphasis on the "manic", as Lindsay is very high energy and excited by the series of events (and seeing Slevin in only a towel). She's fairly grounded otherwise, questioning why Slevin doesn't simply go to the police to solve the problem or coming up with simpler ways of getting out of trouble. Her enthusiasm is directed at helping Slevin, not simply riding the adventure high, and the trope slightly inverted as Slevin never counted on her presence in his plans. While it doesn't hinder his plans, it does complicate his strategic exit.
- Manipulative Bastard: Almost everyone.
- Market-Based Title: In Australia, it was released as The Wrong Man. The Portuguese title is Xeque-Mate(Checkmate).
- May I Borrow a Cup of Sugar?: Lindsay is introduced to Slevin in this fashion. For a little twist, she borrows not only the sugar, but also the cup to carry it in.
- Meaningful Name:
- Slevin Kelevra. "Slevin" is the name of the horse that died in the opening race. Kelevra is Hebrew for "Bad Dog", a reference to his relationship with the hitman Goodkat.
- 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 murdered a bookie with a thrown baseball.
- Mob War: The Boss and The Rabbi are locked in one that has escalated to the point where neither man leaves their penthouses for fear of being killed.
- 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.
- Obfuscating Disability:
- 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: 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 because Slevin is actually a fairly accomplished hitman who's killed two people just to put himself in the position he's in (and arranged for the killing of two more, by Goodkat). 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 that he plans to kill 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 are known only by those names, 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. The Kansas City Shuffle and Slevin's true intentions change that.
- Playing Both Sides: Slevin turns a gang warfare into a full-blown Kansas City Shuffle.
- Plot-Inciting Infidelity: Slevin is staying at Nick's place because he walked in on his wife cheating on him. Subverted by the fact that it turns out Slevin was lying about this story.
- Precision F-Strike: "The two of you killed everything I ever loved. Fuck you both."
- 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.
- Rewatch Bonus: When you watch the movie a second time, pay attention to everything The Boss and The Rabbi say.
- Running Gag: Slevin continually gets his nose broken.Elvis: Say something else! I will break your nose!
Slevin: My nose is already broken—[cut to Slevin holding his nose in pain]
- Sealed Evil in a Can: The Boss and the Rabbi's war is so heated that both crime bosses have sealed themselves inside their respective penthouses and never leave for fear of an assassination. And they've been living like this for twenty years.
- Second Person Attack: The film does this with the death of "Slim", 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.
- 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.
- Sinister Minister: The Rabbi, who is a major crime boss.
- Smart People Play Chess: Goodkat and Slevin play chess with The Boss as they each report to him.
- Smug Snake: The Boss thinks of himself as a Magnificent Bastard, when in fact he is this.
- Staged Shooting: Lindsey.
- 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.
- Those Two Bad Guys: There are two sets of them: Elvis and Sloe, the black gangsters; and Saul and the Mute, the Jewish gangsters. Interestingly enough, all four men meet their ends by Goodkat's hand.
- Too Dumb to Live: Max, who ironically thinks of himself as a smart guy.
- Title Drop: "It was the name of the horse! The name of the horse was Lucky Number Slevin!"
- Trapped by Gambling Debts:
- Although they're actually Nick's debts. Since the trapping was planned, this can be considered an Invoked Trope.
- Max is also trapped by a 20,000 debt the moment the horse dies. Unlike Nick, his creditors very quickly come to collect.
- Tranquil Fury/Pre-Mortem One-Liner: "There is no "they"; I did this to you"/"You killed everything I love. Fuck you both." Slevin doesn't raise his voice once during his entire Motive Rant.
- 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 and the dirty cop who killed his mother.
- Walking Shirtless Scene: Slevin spends the first third of the movie in nothing but a Modesty Towel.
- We Do Not Know Each Other: Goodkat and Slevin.
- Wham Line:The Fairy: Who's trying to kill me?
- 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.
- World of Snark: Also featuring one of the Boss' henchmen who tries to get in on the game, but... he can't.
- 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.
- Your Cheating Heart: Slevin caught his girlfriend cheating on him. It didn't actually happen. His rebuttal of her excuse is excellent: she's being doggy-styled by some other guy when Slevin walks in, and tries to say, "It was an accident."Slevin: Accident, eh? What, like, he tripped and you fell?