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The Rabbi: Your predicament reminds me of a story. Hitchcock. North by Northwest. The movie where everybody thinks Cary Grant is a man named George Kaplan, but the thing is there is no George Kaplan. It's just a made-up name, but names, even made-up ones...they can bring about quite a bit of trouble. Now, the woman in the picture with Grant, her name was, um...
Slevin: Eva Marie Saint.
The Rabbi: Oh, you know this movie.
Slevin: I know this movie.
A 2006 thriller with some elements of a stylized Film Noir, Lucky Number Slevin (released, bizarrely, as The Wrong Man in Australia) plays with viewpoint and non-linear storytelling in a similar way to The Usual Suspects or a Quentin Tarantino flick. The film features an all-star cast comprised of Josh Hartnett, Lucy Liu, Ben Kingsley, Morgan Freeman, and Bruce Willis.
The movie opens with a recount of an old horse race where one of the trainers tries to fix the race by drugging his horse. He tells his brother, who tells a friend, who tells another friend…and the cycle continues until word of the "drugstore handicap" eventually makes it back to Max, a family man looking to make a buck and put his kid through school. Max puts down a lot of money he doesn't have on the horse, thinking of the bet as a sure thing -- but during the fateful race, the horse breaks its leg on the home stretch. The bookie who took the bet goes all out to collect the debt from Max: he has his goons beat -- and kill -- Max, sends more goons to kill Max's wife, and calls in a professional to kill Max's young son when none of his other goons will do the deed.
Fast forward several years: an everyman named Slevin has just moved to New York City to stay at his buddy Nick's house after a week of misfortune. After meeting his quirky neighbor Lindsey, Slevin finds himself mistaken for Nick by thugs connected to a gangster known only as The Boss. Nick owes quite a bit of money to this man, and no one believes Slevin when he says The Boss shouldn't put him on the hook for the loan. Nick's debts complicate matters further when Slevin learns Nick also owes money to The Rabbi, a rival to The Boss who, in a very Shakespearan turn of events, lives right across the street from The Boss (in the exact same type of building, no less).
Slevin finds himself trapped in the middle of the gangsters' cold war when The Boss asks him to assassinate The Rabbi's son to cover Nick's debt -- but everyone has secrets in this Kansas City Shuffle...
Lucky Number Slevin provides examples of the following tropes:
- Actor Allusion: Bruce Willis gives Slevin the watch that once belonged to his (Slevin) father. Much like Bruce Willis' character received his father's watch in Pulp Fiction
- Actually, That's My Assistant: When Slevin first meets the Boss.
- Angst? What Angst?: Justified by Slevin with his "ataraxia" (which he describes as if it's a mental disorder - it's actually a philosophical concept meaning pretty much what he says it means). The true reason is of course that Slevin planned all the events of the movie in advance.
- Asian Gal with White Guy: Slevin and Lindsay
- Ask a Stupid Question / Captain Obvious:
Slevin: How'd you find out?
Goodkat: I'm a world class assassin, fuckhead. How'd you think I found out?
- Asshole Victim: Nick Fisher, who seems entirely harmless at the start of the film, is revealed to have been a pederast who served eight years in prison for forcing himself on a fourteen year old cheerleader.
- Black and Gray Morality: There are no good guys. Even Slevin kills the sons of the gangsters who killed his parents, despite the fact that neither of them had ever harmed him personally.
- Bilingual Bonus: If you speak Hebrew, you know that Slevin's last name (Kelevra) means "Bad Dog". It will not take long from there to guess that he has a connection to Goodkat.
- Book Ends: The film ends in the same airport terminal it started in, though it is empty the first time and full the second.
- Cadre of Foreign Bodyguards: The Rabbi hires two Badass Israeli bodyguards to protect his son from assassination.
- Chekhov's Gun: So, so many. First, you have the literal gun the Rabbi uses. It's seen in the beginning when one of the faceless men is torturing Max. Then the Rabbi threatens Slevin with it. There is also the Boss's ring, Slevin's watch, and the Fairy's necklace, just to name a few.
- The Chessmaster: Goodkat and Slevin.
- Danger Takes a Backseat: Detective Brikowski is killed in this matter.
- Deadpan Snarker: Slevin to a T. The Boss even mentions it: "Bet you it was that mouth that got you that [broken] nose." He claims that he has a condition that prevents him from taking anything seriously or worrying.
- Dirty Cop: Detective Brikowski.
- Divide and Conquer
- Downer Ending: The alternate ending on the DVD where Lucy Liu's character dies would count.
- Dungeon Bypass: Touched upon by The Fairy's bodyguards; they are in the next room, but they come through the (false) wall. However, Goodkat realizes that this is where they would come in, noticing that the wall is thin by the noise they make next door, and is able to ambush them.
- Dumb Muscle: Slow. He and Elvis even discuss it in a deleted scene.
- The Ending Changes Everything: Detective Brikowski reacts rather interestingly whenever Goodkat is mentioned. And look at Slevin reacting to the Boss calling himself a nice guy or hiding the fact that he is an assassin by saying, "I uh, I travel a lot."
- Even Evil Has Standards: The mob have to bring in a specialist hitman because no one is willing to kill an innocent child. Turns out the hitman was not keen on the idea either...
- Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The Boss, The Rabbi, The Fairy, and Goodkat.
- Fan Service: Slevin in his towel for the first third of the movie.
- Flirting Under Fire: Slevin and Lindsey build up most of their romance in this manner. Despite the fact that Slevin is on the hit list of two warring gangs, he and Lindsey find time to flirt, go to dinner (where Slevin is able to shadow a man he has been told to kill), and spend a night together.
- Gambit Roulette: Several points in the plan are up to chance, most particularly The Boss picking a hitman who hasn't worked the city in question for years to do the deed. The plan where Slevin is counting on Goodkat not checking if Lindsey is dead. That Slevin would be able to pay his debt to the Rabbi in person, at night. Certainly, measures were taken to skew the probabilities in their favor, but none of it was guaranteed from the outset.
- Gayngster: The Fairy.
- Genki Girl: Lindsay is adorable.
- Guns Akimbo: Goodkat--just look at the image for this page.
- Henway: One of The Fairy's body guards makes a couple of these in a deleted scene.
"What's a whoredo?"
"She has sex with you for money!"
- Hitman with a Heart: Goodkat.
- Improvised Weapon: The killer in the opening sequence kills a bookie by throwing a baseball. Into his eye..
- In the Style Of: The lightning-fast dialogue with constant references to other films and tv shows can't fail to make one think of Tarantino.
- Irony: "Dramatic Irony" is a term for when a character is speaking the truth, without realizing that he or she is speaking the truth. When you watch the movie a second time, pay attention to everything The Boss and The Rabbi say.
- Kansas City Shuffle: Trope Namer!
- The Killer Becomes the Killed: The Boss, The Rabbi, and Detective Brikowski
- Lucky Charms Title: marketed occasionally as Lucky # Slevin (see the picture) or Lucky Number Sㄥevin
- Lucky Seven: Referenced in the movie title, which is a pun on the phrase and the main character's name.
- Make It Look Like an Accident: "It can't look like a hit."
- Manipulative Bastard: almost everyone
- Market-Based Title: In Australia, it was released as The Wrong Man. The Portuguese title is Xeque-Mate(Checkmate).
- Meaningful Name:
- Slevin Kelevra. "Slevin" is the name of the horse that died in the opening race. Kelevra is Hebrew for "Bad Dog," a reference to his relationship with the hitman Goodkat
- The Rabbi and his son, the Fairy. Why do they call him the Rabbi? Because he is a rabbi. Why do they call him the Fairy? Because he is a homosexual.
- Mob War: Between the Boss and the Rabbi. It has escalated to the point where neither can leave his penthouse for fear of being executed by the other.
- Mood Whiplash: Almost every scene in this movie flips between deathly serious and absolutely hilarious; few scenes fall between the two extremes, and the film makes a point out of transitioning between these moods in an abrupt manner.
- Oh Crap: Slevin does this twice -- once when Brikowski confronts him in the men's room at the restaurant, and once when Goodkat sees him with Lindsey, who's supposed to be dead. He recovers fairly quickly in both instances.
- One-Scene Wonder: The opening story-within-a-story has plenty of these; the casting directors did a hell of a job on the side characters.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Slevin does this in Best Served Cold form. The world class assassin sent to kill Slevin ended up raising him instead, and as an adult, Slevin came back to kill the men who had his family killed.
- Running Gag: Slevin continually gets his nose broken.
- Second-Person Attack: The film does this with the death of The Rabbi's bookie (who died from having a baseball thrown at his head).
- Shirtless Scene: Josh Hartnett spends about a third of the movie in this state -- and not just shirtless.
- Shout-Out: An "echo" variation: after Columbo gets mentioned, Slevin does a "just one more thing" to The Rabbi. James Bond gets mentioned just before Slevin gets the girl, who ends up (apparently) getting killed. North by Northwest gets a mention for the plot point of someone getting mistaken for a person who doesn't exist -- shortly before the film reveals the truth about the protagonist's "real" identity.
- Mykelti Williams' character has a noticeable physical tic where he constantly has his upper lip raised. In his most famous role -- Bubba in Forrest Gump -- he had a similar tic where his lower lip was constantly extended.
- Sliding Scale of Anti-Heroes: Slevin is a Type I until it becomes apparent that he and Goodkat are in cahoots, making him a Type IV/Type V. Goodkat, though, is definitely a Type V, his only saving graces being not wanting to kill a child, and letting Lindsay live. After trying to kill her once.
- Smart People Play Chess: Goodkat and Slevin, as they each report to The Boss.
- Staged Shooting: Lucy Liu's character.
- Straight Gay: The Fairy, for the most part (despite the name).
- Title Drop: "It was the name of the horse! The name of the horse was Lucky Number Slevin!"
- Trapped by Gambling Debts: Although they're actually Nick's debts. Since the trapping was planned, this can be considered an Invoked Trope.
- Tranquil Fury: "You killed everything I love. Fuck you both." Slevin doesn't raise his voice once during his entire Motive Rant.
- We Do Not Know Each Other: Goodkat and Slevin.
- Wham! Line:
The Fairy: "Who's trying to kill me?"
- Wouldn't Hurt a Child: The Boss calls in a specialist to kill a child when none of his goons would do the job. The specialist can't bring himself to do it either.