Tuesday, June 05, 2007

YOU KILL ME: fun romantic dark comedy

site | trailerCaught YOU KILL ME tonight at an advance screening at Kendall Square—a lot of light and dark laughs! Although, to be honest, there wasn't a lot that *felt* all that dark. Perhaps that's just me, tho, right? The "dark" seems to be a label that fits more by definition than mood.

First off, THANKS, IFFB! It was the peeps at the Independent Film Festival of Boston who alerted me to the screening last night and I got my sister and Rowan into it. Today I forwarded the link on to a mess of other people, but apparently couldn't lure anyone else out. Boo. O well.

A wonderful, simple, and okay, kinda dark, premise—a professional killer with a drinking problem—leads to some sweet romantic and comic moments. It helps, of course, that Frank the killer is played by Sir Ben Kingsley, and Lauren, the romantic interest, is Tea Leoni. I do love a sexy girl who can bring the funny with an earnest performance and timing, without having to be bungling and tee-hee-ing.

When his drinking interferes with the quality of his work, his Family stages an intervention. They give him an ultimatum—he needs to dry out and *ahem* shoot straight. So he's sent from gangland Buffalo into hiding in San Francisco, ordered to join AA, and as part of his rehab, pressed into part time legit service as a mortician's assistant at a funeral home. When an alcoholic killer who appreciates precise and professional work starts the twelve steps, takes stock, examines his life, well, it makes for some unusual meetings and measures.

It's not a non-stop laugh-riot, and I think the script could actually be pushed further for more fun and funny, but it's a good balance, and a well played follow-thru on the fish-out-of-water scenario. It plays as a story that is populated by characters who are funny and witty, and when laughs come from situations, they're not forced set-ups, but arise matter-of-factly, driven by the characters.

Kingsley plays menacing straight man perfectly. Opposite Leoni, his nervousness is touching. In his moments alone, or in the company of the recently deceased at the funeral home, he's a typical clueless single guy, could be someone you know. Gotta say, Bill Pullman pulls a rabbit out of his hat with his portrayal of Frank's sleazy San Francisco "handler," Dave. I don't want to give any details of his character away here, as they're so much better experienced firsthand in the film, but I will say that he plays an excellent scumbag.

The clever characters make for some very fun dialogue and verbal jousting, dipping into saucy punnery (think double entendre for "shortcomings") and rising to ironic euphemism (Frank describing his work as being "in personnel"). The story also allows for one of the funnest courtships with a killer I've seen on screen since THE PROFESSIONAL. I'm not saying that it *rivals* the Leon + Mathilda dynamic. It sort of shares its spirit, tho. Only, y'know, without the statutory factor.

YOU KILL ME should be in wide release later this month. If you like the bits in the trailer, the movie delivers more of the same, and wish some great understated and character performances. Check it out for a great cool date flick. =)

I mentioned to my sister after the movie that I thought that this subgenre of dark comedy—put a professional killer in an everyday/nonexotic situation—almost writes itself. It's "easy." The director, John Dahl (RED ROCK WEST, LAST SEDUCTION, ROUNDERS) was present at the screening and afterwards held a Q&A session. He said that the script for the film had been written years ago, by the writing team that has been penning the screenplays for the NARNIA movies. The writers had abandoned hope of it ever being produced, though, and Dahl put it something like this: "Who wants to make a dark comedy about a contract killer?"

Does that sound wrong to anyone else? Maybe it's my warped brain. Because the question that my mind formulates is rather: "Who DOESN'T want to make a dark comedy about a contract killer?" There's so much material there. Easy, sure, but when crafted just right, damn entertaining. GROSS POINT BLANK, anyone? MATADOR? COLD BLOODED, even! But maybe that's a Hollywood insider attitude or trend. Perhaps box office numbers are historically bad for this material...? *sigh*

Well, I suppose it may be better that it's a rarity, or a Hollywood long shot. I wouldn't want the genre flooded with mainstream schlock.

Keep on keepin on~

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