WRONG MAN, THE
Slevin (Josh Hartnett) arrives from out of town to stay at his friend's apartment in New York but finds Nick (Sam Jaeger) gone - missing. Good natured and attractive neighbour Lindsey (Lucy Liu) tries to help investigate the mystery, but Slevin, mistaken for his gambling debt-ridden friend the resident, is dragged into the middle of a war being plotted by two of New York's rival crime bosses: The Rabbi (Ben Kingsley) and The Boss (Morgan Freeman). Slevin, under constant surveillance by relentless Detective Brikowski (Stanley Tucci) and with the infamous assassin Goodkat (Bruce Willis) prowling, on the scent of several kills, has to accept an assignment (in his missing friend's name) to hit the son of The Rabbi if he wants to stay alive.
Review by Louise Keller:
It starts with a dead body, a briefcase and numbers in a ledger. There is a horse race, a hooker named Gloria and a dope doctor with a big mouth. By the time we get to meet Josh Hartnett's Slevin, wearing nothing but a mauve and white floral towel around his well toned abs, the body count has risen and the violence is bloody. With its interesting cross pollination of genres, The Wrong Man puts a colourful mix of characters into a plot line that intrigues, stimulates and occasionally baffles with sleight of hand. Essentially a crime noir thriller with a twist, Paul McGuigan's film is showy and sharp, whose witty dialogue is delivered with a shrug.
How could a story of revenge be so complicated? There is Morgan Freeman as The Boss, Ben Kingsley as his adversary The Rabbi, his gay son, plus Bruce Willis as the enigmatic Goodkat/Mr Smith who talks about the elusive Kansas City Shuffle, Lucy Liu as the chatty neighbour, and Stanley Tucci as the always-watching cop stationed in a parked van. Everyone is watching everyone. When Slevin is forcibly summonsed for an audience with The Boss, it seems as though it is a case of mistaken identity. But we quickly learn, the importance of a name should never be ignored.
The film looks great: bleak, wintry New York exteriors contrast with bold, textured wallpapers and brightly coloured interiors. Perhaps not everything makes sense, but the scene featuring Morgan and Kingsley together in a sticky situation, is one that is well worth anticipating. I am partial to the original unusual title Lucky Number Slevin, which seems to reflect the film's essence better than The Wrong Man, which should not be confused with Hitchcock's 1956 film noir or any others where 'Man' figures in the title.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The Wrong Man (originally titled Lucky Number Slevin) begins with an engaging scene in a near-deserted airport lounge, where the first of several murders takes place. I counted eight in the first 15 minutes. This is all part of the story set up, but disjointed and seemingly unconnected ... to get us hooked.
It's a film that tries hard to be cool and clever, with a complex plot that is unravelled only at the end. The audience is kept off the scent of the real story with a dedicated list of red herrings, while being entertained by dialogue made for the movies. This is where it begins to slip and slide, revealing a laboured screenplay which - despite its desire to be fresh - uses derivative elements of the thriller genre. (Gambling debts?) In the Bruce Willis character of Goodkat (and even in his name) we find elements of playful noir that echo with the 50s, but without the hard lighting.
Sir Ben Kingsley (ridiculed in the industry for insisting on his knighthood being mandated in the credits) delivers a dry gang boss with Kingsley minimalist edge, but Morgan Freeman as his opposite number can't suppress his humanity to show any nastiness. Besides, these two characters are so hopelessly caricatures they belong in a comic book. This is underlined when they get involved in what would be small fry business for kingpins living in multi million dollar penthouse apartments in Manhattan.
Lucy Liu is the best thing in the film, while Josh Hartnett has to portray a lightweight character for most of the film - which he can. Director Paul McGuigan lets a few things past which he shouldn't, including a preposterously hammy heavy, Sloe (Myhelti Williamson) whose attempt at doing something new with a brainless enforcer takes the form of an angry tooth-baring grimace that looks plain silly.
There is undoubted entertainment value in the film despite its flaws, especially for those who are looking for a bit of tricky plotting and not too concerned about cinematic detail.
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WRONG MAN, THE (MA)
CAST: Josh Hartnett, Bruce Willis, Lucy Liu, Morgan Freeman, Ben Kingsley, Michael Rubenfeld, Peter Outerbridge, Stanley Tucci, Kevin Chamberlin, Dorian Missick, Mykelti Williamson, Scott Gibson, Danny Aiello, Sam Jaeger
PRODUCER: Christopher Eberts, Andreas Grosch, Kia Jam, Robert Kravis, Tyler Mitchell, Anthony Rhulen, Chris Roberts
DIRECTOR: Paul McGuigan
SCRIPT: Jason Smilovic
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Peter Sova
EDITOR: Andrew Hulme
MUSIC: Joshua Ralph
PRODUCTION DESIGN: François Séguin
RUNNING TIME: 109 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 2, 2006
RIVERSIDE SNEAK PEEK PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 4 consecutive Tuesdays - March 10, 17, 24, 31, 2015 - at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.