Yet another movie in the “Let’s rip off Pulp Fiction” genre (“Things to Do In Denver When You’re Dead”, etc.) this film starring Josh Hartnett as the hapless dweeb caught in a (sometimes) hysterical web of mistaken identity. This web involves Ben Kingsley as a mobster called The Rabbi (why? Because he’s a Rabbi, of course.) Another mobster (Morgan Freeman) called the Boss (why? Oh…nevermind) Bruce Willis as a deadly hitman, the delectable Lucy Liu as the kooky coroner next door…oh, it just goes on and on. Filled with incredibly unlikely coincidences, lotsa cute dialogue, and some genuine suspense as Hartnet’s character “Sleven” tries to negotiate some very dangerous waters without drowning…I really should have liked it more. Really. But there is an amoral core to this film that goes beyond “Pulp Fiction.” In Tanantino’s masterpiece, we cheer for Jules, the hit-man, because of what he is becoming, or attempting to become, not because of what he has been. Even on those terms, no one is killed who did not at least tacitly agree to become part of a system where death is a possible result. The moral landscape, while dark, is clear.
In “Sleven,” it is muddier. Not only that, but the movie cheats—it is a trick, you see, and some of what you think you know, you don’t know at all. Things that are shown onscreen never happened at all, and that violates some very basic rules for the audience, rule that, while stretched in a brilliant film like “the Usual Suspects” are never quite broken. So there you are…a bad taste in my mouth, rather than a cracking good time. Give it a “B-“
On another subject, Lucy Liu is sure cute there with Hartnett. Let’s see…how long has it been since we’ve seen an Asian male being sexual with ANYONE in an American film? Try “Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story” in 1993. Thirteen YEARS ago. But wait, that was a biopic. How about a fictional movie? Try “the Big Brawl” with Jackie Chan, in 1980, twenty-six years ago. There was a movie called “The Dragon Flies” with Jimmy Wang Yu and George Lazenby back in 1975, but you’re starting to see the pattern, I hope. One suspects the distribution is roughly similar to the proportion of female to male Asian television reporters. A female in every city, a male in every state.
Sunday, April 09, 2006
Posted by Steven Barnes at 10:50 AM