You Kill Me
John The Last Seduction Dahl’s latest film is a work of modest ambition that manages to hit just the right notes. The gleefully morbid script, by screenwriting team Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe), follows the nefarious adventures of alcoholic hitman Frank (Ben Kingsley). Frank takes pride in being good at his job, and he has an odd sense of conscience. He doesn’t regret killing people, just the kills that weren’t ‘clean’. When Frank falls asleep on the job and his target gets away, Roman, his Mafioso brother (Philip Baker Hall), orders him to go to Alcoholics Anonymous and get cleaned up. Meanwhile, rival mob boss Edward (Dennis Farina) is trying to muscle in on Roman’s turf, just as his brother and best hitman is otherwise detained.
Kingsley, an actor who has carved a new niche for himself playing the heavy, is the sneaky, playful presence at the heart of a film peopled by gifted comic actors, notably Tea Leoni, Bill Pullman, Luke Wilson, and Marcus Thomas, all of whom bring a special flourish to their work as the motley bunch of endearing, off-the-wall characters.
Dahl returns to form as director, his last film of note being the uneven Rounders back in 1998. Besides a weak ending, You Kill Me delivers on its giddy premise all the way, and it’s unlike most other ‘nihilistic-comedies-about-lovable-hitmen’ in that there’s nothing mean-spirited about it. It doesn’t glorify Frank’s work, but it never holds it against him either. This diamond hard, razor sharp gem of a film is dark, but it has heart. It’s death affirming.
General release from Fri 7 Dec.