So there was this guy… Slick, shallow and brain-bendingly convoluted, Scottish Paul McGuigan's twisty thriller, from a script by Jason Smilovic, doesn't add up to a whole lot but looks terrific doing it. It begins with a series of murders followed by a nondescript young man's (Sam Jaeger) arrival at an anonymous airport, where an older fellow in a wheelchair...read more
So there was this guy…
Slick, shallow and brain-bendingly convoluted, Scottish Paul McGuigan's twisty thriller, from a script by Jason Smilovic, doesn't add up to a whole lot but looks terrific doing it. It begins with a series of murders followed by a nondescript young man's (Sam Jaeger) arrival at an anonymous airport, where an older fellow in a wheelchair (Bruce Willis) draws — or perhaps the word is "hauls" — him into conversation. The topic: The "Kansas City shuffle," a con man's diversionary tactic that the wheelchair-bound Smith illustrates through a complicated yarn involving a fixed horse race, an unlucky gambler, ruthless gangsters and a murdered family. By the time the traveling man has cleared his head enough to wonder what all this has to do with the aforementioned shuffle, he's dead and parked in Smith's wheelchair, which Smith wheels to a waiting van. Meanwhile, in New York City, unlucky Slevin (Josh Hartnett), who's had his heart broken by a cheating girlfriend and his wallet stolen by a street thug, arrives at his friend Nick Fisher's apartment to find the front door open and Nick conspicuous by his absence. Before Slevin has time to start worrying about Nick, he has more pressing worries of his own. He's kidnapped in rapid succession by two sets of hoodlums, one pair working for the Boss (Morgan Freeman) and the other for his arch rival, the Rabbi (Ben Kingsley). Both are convinced that Slevin is Nick, who owes each man a large sum of money, and each promises to erase the debt if Nick/Slevin will do something for him. And the complications keep coming: Smith is working for both the Boss and the Rabbi, who are both under surveillance by a police team led by surly Detective Brikowski (Stanley Tucci), and Nick's neighbor from across the hall, a perky coroner named Lindsey (Lucy Liu), starts sleuthing around on her own. The more the pieces fall together, the less interesting Smilovic's bloody, amoral, smarty-pants story becomes, but it's hard to criticize Smilovic for not being as clever as he thinks because no one could be as clever as he thinks. And that very brashness goes a long way to keeping the whole tales-within-tales construction aloft long after it should by all rights have come crashing down. Smilovic's rapid-fire, Tarantino-esque dialogue is consistently razor-sharp, and the elaborate set design — which leans heavily towards shiny, riotously patterned wallpaper — is an eyeball-jangling blast.
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