Killer comedy

Posted on 05 Jul 2007 at 7:42pm
By Steve Warren Contributing Film Critic

Alky hit-man meets funny bunch of eccentrics while drying out in San Fran



TWO DUDES ON A MAN DATE: Tom (Luke Wilson, right), an amiable gay toll-taker at the Golden Gate Bridge, strives to keep Frank (Ben Kingsley) on the straight and narrow.

You Kill Me

b

Director: John Dahl
Cast: Ben Kingsley, T?a Leoni,
Luke Wilson, Dennis Farina and Philip Baker Hall
Opens July 6 at Angelika Dallas and Legacy 24-Plano.
1 hr. 32 min. R

What do you get when you cross a more mature version of “Grosse Pointe Blank” with an Alcoholics Anonymous infomercial? The answer should be “a mess.” But “You Kill Me” turns those strange bedfellows into a winning combination.

John Dahl’s best film since “The Last Seduction,” “You Kill Me” stars Ben Kingsley as Frank Falenczyk, hit man for his family’s Polish gang in Buffalo, led by his uncle, Roman Krzeminski (Philip Baker Hall).

Frank used to be good at his job, but he drinks so much he can’t hit the side of a barn, let alone a person. When he sleeps through an assignment that would have prevented Irish boss Edward O’Leary (Dennis Farina) from hooking up with Chinese financiers and crowding the Poles out, the family intervenes and sends Frank to San Francisco to join A.A. and dry out or else.

They have a guy there, Dave the Realtor (Bill Pullman), to keep an eye on Frank. Dave finds Frank an apartment and tells him to be thankful it’s not a studio in the Castro: “You’d be up to your ass in dog collars and assless chaps if it wasn’t for me.”

Dave also finds Frank a job in a funeral home, which is where he meets Laurel (T?a Leoni), when she comes to bury her hated stepfather.

Without Dave’s threats and Laurel’s could it be love? Frank wouldn’t stick with the program. He gets a different kind of encouragement from his sponsor, Tom (Luke Wilson). Tom, who is gay (so he never hooks up in the whole movie, even tags along as a single on double dates), represents the A.A. party line, even though he jokes about the meetings being “a really good place to meet guys.” He’s a really swell fellow who screwed up but will spend the rest of his life being the best Tom he can.

Once Frank gets the hang of sharing with relative strangers there’s no stopping him. He blurts out the details of his profession, and no one judges him for it. Why should they? We don’t.

The dark comedy finds humor in some of the types that populate 12-step programs without disrespecting the situations that brought them there. It’s a fine line the film walks amazingly well, just as it presents the appropriate messages without getting so preachy it forgets to entertain.

While Frank is falling in love and recovering with occasional backsliding in San Francisco, the situation in Buffalo is deteriorating rapidly. It’s only a matter of time until he’ll have to return and attempt to salvage the family’s honor in a bloody climax.

“You Kill Me” has a plethora of minor problems but none that outweigh its outrageous affability. Aside from a few basic landmarks most of the street scenes were obviously not filmed in San Francisco (the flat streets of Winnipeg, actually). Tom works as a toll taker on the Golden Gate Bridge, which has ridiculously little traffic.

Laurel isn’t given enough background to explain why she’d be available to an alcoholic hit man, even when she finds his work a turn-on. A little personal history would be more useful than a pet turtle. But if you’re into the movie, you’ll accept her explanation (it worked for Joe E. Brown in “Some Like It Hot”): “Nobody’s perfect.”

No movie’s perfect either. “You Kill Me” is good enough.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, July 6, 2007.

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