Hey there, I’m Jared. I have 726 movies and shows in my Instant Queue and that’s just way too many. I’m not adding anymore movies or shows to it until it’s empty. So, I’m going to start at Number One and work my way down the list and give you guys a choice of the next five in my queue, in order, all the way to the end. But, I’m also thinking of you and your unwieldy queue and all the movies you want to watch but no longer have the time to now that you’ve become so awesome and popular. Let me know what has been gathering digital dust in your Netflix Instant library and I’ll watch that too. Let’s get to it!
What’s the movie? You Kill Me (2007)
What’s it rated? Rated R for Ben Kingsley’s sailor mouth, Dennis Farina’s smart-ass delivery and unfunny alcoholism.
Did people make it? Written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. Directed by John Dahl. Acted by Ben Kingsley, Téa Leoni, Luke Wilson, Phillip Baker Hall, Dennis Farina, Bill Pullman and Marcus Thomas.
What’s it like in one sentence? It’s like if Grosse Pointe Blank didn’t care about the psychology of its hitman and also gave us a non-starter romance to root for.
Why did you watch it? John Livingston not only picked the film, but helped me decide on the future format of the column. So good on him.
What’s it about in one paragraph? Ben Kingsley plays Frank Falenczyk, an alcoholic hitman for the Polish mob in Buffalo, NY. When Frank falls asleep while waiting to take out Edward O’Leary (Farina), the leader of Buffalo’s Irish mob, Frank’s Boss sends him to San Francisco to dry out before the upcoming mob war steps off. Once he arrives in the Bay, Frank makes new friends, experiences his first AA meeting and falls for a bizarre woman (Leoni) who couldn’t care less that he’s an assassin. Will Frank go back to Buffalo and hit the mattresses, or will he stay in the Bay Area, fall in love and live the life he thinks he might deserve?
Play or remove from my queue? Eh, it depends on your mileage here and what you’re expecting. I consider myself a pretty big fan of director John Dahl and I’ve always been sitting on this film as it’s the only one of his I haven’t seen yet. If you look at his work on films like Red Rock West, The Last Seduction, Rounders and Joy Ride, he brings such a playful touch to genre films that, in less assured hands, shouldn’t work at all. Combine that with his efforts of making some of the best episodes ever of established shows like BSG, Breaking Bad, The Vampire Diaries, True Blood, Terriers, Dexter, Justified and many more, John Dahl is one of Hollywood’s unsung heroes. You Kill Me was his last feature before diving headfirst into the world of genre television and kicking its ass. I always assumed the back-to-back box office failures of this (made 2 million on a 4 million budget) and The Great Raid (10 million on an 80 million budget) was the reason for feature film’s loss and television’s gain. It’s too bad that You Kill Me is definitely one of his lesser works.
The film is entertaining and Ben Kingsley is his typically wonderful self, but the film is hollow underneath its fun and crunchy exterior. Frank doesn’t have much personality aside from being a grumpy, alcoholic hitman. He likes the precision of killing someone with one bullet and alcohol has taken that away from him, so he must get sober in order to continue being a member of the only real family he’s ever known. There’s pretty interesting ideas in there, but all those notes are played through the dialogue instead of through action or subtext. I realize that You Kill Me is supposed to be light as a feather, but so was Grosse Pointe Blank in a lot of ways and the characters were more realized and the stakes felt much higher. The idea of his character being bothered by his lack of precision in the murders he’s committed instead of guilt over the murders themselves is a good one, but it comes across like the rest of the film does: undercooked and toothless.
To continue the comparisons of You Kill Me and Grosse Pointe Blank: Blank had a romance you gave a shit about because Cusack and Driver’s characters had a complicated history that was well played through their interactions together. In You Kill Me, Frank is basically a parody of a hitman with his constant willingness to tell people what he does for a living and his sociopathic tendencies treated with a wry smile and a wink. When Leoni’s character is introduced, we get that she’s weird and quirky, but we never understand why and how her strangeness would allow her to be connected to Frank. Leoni and Kingsley have fantastic chemistry and with a stronger script I easily could have bought in to a romance between them. Here, however, it all just feels too underdeveloped to arouse any interest other than enjoying seeing the two actors opposite each other.
There’s also a lot of dead ends when it comes to the supporting characters. Bill Pullman is at his greasy best as a real-estate agent in San Francisco who is supposed to look out for Frank while he’s there. Frank and the agent almost come to blows a few times, but the film forgets about their arc and focuses on Leoni’s love interest instead. Luke Wilson plays Frank’s sponsor very well, but he is given almost nothing to work with. He shows up to be a sounding board for Frank, only to disappear when Frank is done talking. Philip Baker Hall and Dennis Farina fare somewhat better as the heads of the Polish and Irish mobs, but their conflict is so secondary to Frank’s sobriety arc that it feels shoehorned in.
That’s not to say there’s nothing to like here, as Dahl’s direction is light enough to keep things moving and the performances are strong all around, but it’s not enough when looking at the talent in front of and behind the camera. If Dahl is given another chance to make a feature (which he should be based on the strength of his TV work), he needs to up his game immensely to get back to the stellar work we know he has in him.
How’s the music? The light, romantic comedy-ish score by Marcelo Zarvos is breezy and unassuming. Nothing memorable, but it doesn’t detract, either. The opening credits done to “Vengo! Vengo!” by Devotchka are the highlight of the movie.
What does Netflix say I’d like if I like this? 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag (I loved it when I was a kid), Coldblooded (Directed by Wally Wolodarsky!), Gettin’ Square (Old school Worthington. No thanks), Perrier’s Bounty (Brendan Gleeson!) and Sexy Beast (fucking classic).
Do you have an interesting fun-fact? Dahl directed the Season Four episode of Battlestar Galactica, “The Oath”, which was one of the tensest hours the show has ever produced.
What is Netflix’s best guess for Jared? 3.4
What is Jared’s best guess for Jared? 2.5
Can you link to the movie? As you wish.
Any last thoughts? Let’s get Luke Wilson some better roles. He was such a revelation in The Royal Tenenbaums that it would be a shame if he never got to work at that caliber again.
Did you watch anything else this week? About 15 more documentaries for BendFilm.
Any spoilerish thoughts about last week’s film, Margin Call? Just that I can’t wait to see J.C. Chandor’s next film. He’s seriously a master of pace with only one film under his belt.
Next Week? So, the next five films going down my queue are as follows:
2) Paranoid Park
3) The Secret of Kells
4) The Eclipse
5) The Long Good Friday
You choose which is next. See you next week.