U.S. Release Date: June 22, 2007
Running Time: 93 minutes
MPAA Classification: R (Language, violence)
Cast: Ben Kingsley, Tea Leoni, Dennis Farina, Luke Wilson, Bill Pullman, Philip Baker Hall, Marcus Thomas
Director: John Dahl
Producer: Tea Leoni, Howard Rosenman
Screenplay: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
By STEPHEN EARNEST / January 5, 2012
The hitman comedy is easily one of the most identifiable kinds of movies, simply because there’s always a certain amount of oddballness in them. The story always stays decidedly formulaic, but the characters are only normal to an extent, and their normality is only used to make them seem more human.
While John Dahl seems to have gotten most of it right, You Kill Me is not quite up to par with the likes of Grosse Pointe Blank and The Matador. It is not even really the same kind of movie as the other two, even though it certainly tries to be. There is a sense of humor at its core, but only of the mildest kind. I can’t guarantee that you’ll laugh more than twice, although you will certainly smirk a lot.
The film’s center is Frank Falenczyk (Ben Kingsley), a disorderly hitman with an incessant drinking problem. Now, I won’t necessarily call Frank the hero because he really isn’t. He’s just there. Sure, we’re supposed to be rooting for him when he goes up against the bad guys, but it doesn’t really ever work that way. He’s simply not likable enough. Kingsley usually plays such strong characters, but Frank just doesn’t have any depth at all. He wanders from scene to scene with the same expression of lethargy, always looking completely unhappy. Words come out of his mouth at such a low volume that I had to lean forward a couple of times to try and decipher what it was that he was saying. Now, while I’m not blaming Kingsley’s acting, in a way I sort of am. This is a role that requires no real emotion and Kingsley brings nothing to it, which is what it calls for, but I found myself detached and uncaring about the future of the lead character. If that’s what Dahl was aiming for, and it seems like he was, then mission accomplished.
The real story of You Kill Me involves Frank botching a critical mission and being sent to San Francisco to get himself together. While there, he has to take up a job at a mortuary and attend several sessions of AA. But while he’s away from home, another mob begins to threaten the one that he works for. Sounds good, right? Well, it’s the perfect premise for a hitman comedy. So much could be made of it. I sat there in my chair thinking of everything that could happen; waiting for something to appear on that screen and make me grin. I was getting my own hopes up.
Dahl squanders everything. He lets everything roll downhill in a wave of predictability, turning the last half-hour into a sort of romantic comedy. I sat there waiting for it to be over, the grin rapidly dissolving from my face.
I take it that maybe I’m on the few that doesn’t like You Kill Me. It’s too subtle and quiet for my taste. It doesn’t begin or end with a bang. In fact, there’s not even a real bang anywhere throughout the entire movie. Everything remains disappointingly low key. Yes, this is a hitman comedy, but only technically. It doesn’t hold a candle to the rest. There is a small amount of humor to appreciate, but none of it is ever dark. There is never a mood that fits. Nothing ever seems to fit quite right with anything else. That’s mainly where You Kill Me fails. It’s awkward and slow-paced.