The Flick Chicks

Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

You Kill Me

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Jacqueline Monahan

You Kill Me

Las Vegas Round The Clock - http://www.lasvegasroundtheclock.com
Jacqueline Monahan is an English tutor for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also a consultant for Columbia College Chicago in Adjunct Faculty Affairs
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Usually referring to someone’s words, which the listener finds funny or unbelievable, this title is meant literally, as in the work a hit man does. We meet Frank Falenczyk (Sir Ben Kingsley) while he is executing (pun intended) a domestic chore, shoveling the walk in front of his Buffalo, NY home. He needs motivation, which a vodka bottle thrown several feet ahead in the snow provides. Frank must shovel to the bottle, take a swallow, and repeat the process. This sequence illustrates that the ingenious, world-weary Frank can think and plan while carrying on his extreme love affair with hard liquor.

After botching an important hit, Frank is sent to dry out in the San Francisco Bay area by the Polish mob family that employs him. Frank does good work, and he is worth the effort to salvage. Uncle Roman Krzeminski (Philip Baker Hall) and Cousin Stef Czyprynski (Marcus Thomas) want to rehabilitate their favorite assassin for his own good. It will enhance his self esteem to be able to accurately extinguish rivals like he used to.

Frank is compelled to attend AA meetings, which he finds ridiculous and uncomfortable. Dave (Bill Pullman), a shady real estate agent, is around to make sure Frank attends the meetings on behalf of the family. Tom (Luke Wilson) is a gay fellow attendee who works in a tollbooth on the Golden Gate Bridge and eventually becomes Frank’s sponsor and confidante.

Set up with a job preparing corpses for burial at a funeral home, Frank approaches this new challenge with the same deadpan manner that served him so well in his previous line of work. Only now he works with death’s end product, where before he aided in the process of transition. Perhaps that’s why he’s so comfortable around the stiffs. They don’t make him roll his eyes with inane speeches like his AA counterparts.

Through his corpse preparation Frank meets and quickly (and implausibly) beds Laurel, a client’s stepdaughter ostensibly because he made the body look good in the coffin, took care with the shoes, buried him with a smile on his face, that sort of thing. Laurel’s mother is happy with the finished product, and that’s enough for Laurel to find attractive about the odd, intense Frank. That Laurel is an above-average looking woman with many prospects in men and Frank is a wiry, weasel-like, aging, bald thug does not matter. Off to bed they go and develop a symbiotic relationship that would make Tammy Wynette proud. Laurel stands by her man while we all wonder why. She’s tutored in the fine points of death by knife and gun, taking an interest in her sweetie’s line of work, like any good woman.

Meanwhile, back in Buffalo, a rival Irish gang headed by Edward O’Leary (Dennis Farina) is making trouble for Frank’s crew. His return home, followed by the unexpected appearance of loyal Laurel will escort you through to the film’s end, (not at all what you think it will be). I like surprises, but something is amiss here.

Director John Dahl (Red Rock West, The Last Seduction) makes a first foray into comedy and to his credit, keeps it dark and dry. There is some graphic violence and language attached to the humor, but no one gets taught a lesson. Booze is forsaken, only to clear Frank’s mind and make him a better killer. Yet everyone still cheers his minor victory while the bigger picture remains unchanged.

Sir Ben Kingsley looks uncomfortable throughout his stint as the Polish, weirdly-accented killer who will accept love as easily as pulling a trigger. Tea Leoni is fast with a wisecrack, and I kept waiting for her character to give Frank the heave-ho when she came to her senses. Luke Wilson is utterly wasted in his role as Frank’s sponsor, seeming to appear only as a plot device to get Frank onto the Golden Gate Bridge for a confessional chat. Bill Pullman proves he can be seedy and unattractive and works these traits effortlessly into his character’s real estate agent/snitch.

Dennis Farina possesses the dead eyes of a shark, and makes you believe he can effectively head up a crime organization. Philip Baker Hall and Marcus Thomas as Frank’s Buffalo cohorts appear too dependent on his skills to stand on their own as a strong team. Perhaps the film would work more cohesively if it were to take a stand for either an all humor or all business direction. Mixing the two doesn’t seem to work here.

The mildly amusing, wildly contrived You Kill Me offers no redemption, no light bulb of introspection or reform for any of its characters. There is not even the hint of a quest for it. There is only the improbable Frank and Laurel, devoted to each other. Again, no lesson here except that maybe there really is someone for everyone on this earth; a perfect match who does not judge, advise or waver in their devotion.

What if mine is in Sri Lanka? That would just kill me.