You Kill Me DVD: Review By Dodd

A well-told story about an alcoholic assassin that does not try to be pretentious or quirky.
  • OVERALL
    3.5
    GREAT
  • Feature
  • Extras
  • Replay Value
THE GOOD
A well-told story about an alcoholic assassin that does not try to be pretentious or quirky.
THE BAD
The main featurette on the DVD is a bit stale
THE FEATURE
There are some remarkable actors out there that are truly versatile and talented at what they do. These certain actors don't really have a trademark shtick because they embrace a completely different character in one film compared to the last. One of the most underrated of these performers is Ben Kingsley. Now I do realize that it is hard these days to not think of Bloodrayne when you hear that name. Every actor makes some type of fatal faux pas in their career, right? It seems that the English actor has moved on from such a mistake and has moved on to bigger and better things. The recent crime flick You Kill Me positions the actor as leading man. Gandhi this film is not, but it certainly delvers the occasional snicker along with slick storytelling, likable characters, and accomplished direction.

Frank Falenczyk (Kingsley) is a Polish hitman who resides in Buffalo and is an alcoholic. Of course, consuming vast quantities of vodka on a regular basis is not good for his career. But Frank loves Buffalo, NY and he loves his job. In the mornings, he can let his bottle of vodka chill in the snow as he shovels, and take a satisfying swig while resting. His problem has a profound effect on his employers when he is sent to off the head (Dennis Farina) of an Irish family threatening to move in on the Polish territory. This easy shot is blown when Frank dozes off in his car allowing the target to board a train.

Crime head Roman (Philip Baker Hall) is unhappy with Frank's incompetence, but also realizes that Frank is the best of the best, and is needed to take down the competition. So Frank is sent across the country to San Francisco to dry out. He is not to kill anyone, but is to work in a funeral parlor making up cadavers for services, and attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in the evenings. It is at the meeting that he meets his compassionate sponsor Tom (Luke Wilson). He also finds a little romance by asking out the stepdaughter of a deceased man at the funeral home. Her name is Laurel (Tea Leoni), and she takes a keen interest in Frank's back-home profession.

All seems well as Frank cultivates a new life of acceptance in San Francisco. But as the Irish move in on his employers in Buffalo, Frank is forced to possibly stay sober and abandon his new place of refuge.

Overall, You Kill Me is a pretty good effort from director John Dahl. It comes as no surprise that Dahl has directed other pretty good efforts that have gone overlooked such as Joyride, Rounders, and The Great Raid. The man has a knack for putting together very likable films that simply are what they are. You Kill Me is not a hilarious classic, but it doesn't throw any foolish punches that make it an unlikable movie. This is because it doesn't attempt to be an overly-quirky romp as most post-Pulp Fiction crime films try to be.

One of the best aspects of this film are the performances. Ben Kingsley is one talented man, and he still has the capability to carry a movie. Like Tommy Lee Jones, Kingsley is one of those actors who ages quite well. His baldness and wrinkles accentuate his age in a very positive way. As a seasoned hitman, he is truly fit to play the role. What is even more impressive is that prior to his Polish criminal, he has flawlessly portrayed other nationalities --- he is a man of a thousand faces. In supporting roles, Wilson and Leoni are terrific. They are not necessary background props, but do not steal the spotlight from Kingsley either. Leoni is particularly intriguing as a confused woman who sees her relationship with Frank as something spontaneously positive despite his old age and his taboo profession.
THE EXTRAS
Behind the Scenes

IFC is on the production side of the film, so this is unsurprisingly a 10-minute piece that debuted on IFC while the film made its rounds in theaters. This is kind of unfulfilling, fluffy, and trying hard to convince us to see the movie. Random interview snippets are thrown in between many, many film clips. Most of the time this states the obvious, and this featurette is not very beneficial to those of us who just finished watching the movie.

Visual Effects Comparison

Believe it or not, this movie has a slew of visual effects that add to the indie aesthetic. It turns out that Buffalo was not snowy and dreary enough, so an effects supervisor had to add snow and bluish tints. Scenes in San Francisco were also green-screened into sequences when Ben Kingsley and Luke Wilson have conversations in a Golden Gate Bridge toll booth sequence.

Commentary

Director John Dahl does this track along with writers Christpher Markus and Stephen McFeely. I once was able to listen to Dahl's commentary for Joyride, and was very impressed at his ability to carry the track all by himself. The filmmaker is incredibly enthusiastic and down-to-earth. With the writers on board, this team is fully prepared to deliver the goods.
THE VIDEO
Widescreen. John Dahl's direction is very subtle for a crime film. He doesn't try to go all Guy Ritchie, and instead uses old-fashioned, steady shots to focus on the interactions between characters.
THE AUDIO
Dolby Digital 5.1. This is not much of a loud, popcorn movie for surround systems. In fact, I had to crank up my stereo sound to fully comprehend the dialogue-driven script.
THE PACKAGE
The case is a standard DVD case with plastic safety locks on the side. The front cover is the original poster art with Kingsley and Leoni on the cover. While the cover markets this as a comedy, I would disagree and say it is a crime film with a few little quirks.
THE FINAL WORD
You Kill Me is a film definitely worth checking out as a rental, and perhaps even a purchase. The unfortunate thing is that this was so heavily marketed as a comedy. If you wait for laugh out loud moments, you may be disappointed. The humor is very subtle and calls for the occasional snicker. This is really a crime story that does a great job of capturing characters. Kingsley portrays an assassin that is not a badass, but a flawed human being who needs friends to confide in. As a fan of the crime genre, this is not one of the best works I have seen. However, it is a well-told story from underrated filmmaker John Dahl. Definitely give this film a chance.

Questions? Comments? Just want to talk movies? Drop me a line at dodd@movieweb.com

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