Combustible Celluloid
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With: Ben Kingsley, Téa Leoni, Luke Wilson, Dennis Farina, Philip Baker Hall, Bill Pullman, Jayne Eastwood, Scott Heindl, Aaron Hughes, Lorraine James, Micheline Marchildon, Devin McCracken, Katie Messina, Joanne Rodriguez, Marcus Thomas, Will Woytowich, Jon Ted Wynne
Written by: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Directed by: John Dahl
MPAA Rating: R for language and some violence
Running Time: 92
Date: 04/28/2007

You Kill Me (2007)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Tank Shot

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

After an unsuccessful bid at respectability with his tepid war film The Great Raid (2005), director John Dahl returns to what he does best: amusingly vicious little films noir. Unlike many others who have paid tribute to the genre, Dahl (Red Rock West, The Last Seduction, etc.) seems to understand its mechanisms from the inside, from an emotional place. In You Kill Me, he elicits an amusing, finely tuned performance from Ben Kingsley as Frank Falenczyk, a hitman for the Polish mob in Buffalo. Frank is so drunk that he falls asleep during a job, causing a rival, Irish mobster (Dennis Farina) to get away. Frank's boss (Philip Baker Hall) sends him to San Francisco to join AA and dry out. His contact man (Bill Pullman) gets him a job working for a mortician. He finds a helpful sponsor (Luke Wilson) and meets a sassy saleswoman (Téa Leoni), but his skills and background eventually find their way to the fore, and the problems back home are only getting worse. Of course, emotionally damaged hitmen are common nowadays, as seen in Grosse Pointe Blank (1997), Panic (2000), The Matador (2005) and on "The Sopranos," but Dahl and writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (The Chronicles of Narnia) find a fresh take, balanced between deadpan humor and nasty violence. Kingsley keeps his mug locked up tight, nicely modulating the movie's unique mood. Dahl's career was effectively rescued in 1994 when San Francisco's Roxie Cinema opened his film Red Rock West for a hugely successful run -- even after it had been released straight-to-video.

DVD Details: The 2007 DVD, distributed by the Weinsteins and IFC, includes an audio commentary track by Dahla and the two writers, a behind-the-scenes featurette (10 minutes), and an interesting before-and-after visual effects comparison, and a trailer for this and other features.

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