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You Kill Me
cast: Ben Kingsley, Téa Leoni, Philip Baker Hall, Luke Wilson, and Bill Pullman

director: John Dahl

89 minutes (15) 2007
widescreen ratio 16:9
Revolver DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Barbara Davies
When alcoholic hitman Frank Falenczyk (Ben Kingsley) falls asleep on the job and fails to kill Irish mob boss O'Leary (Dennis Farina), he triggers a drastic series of events. For O'Leary has his ruthless sights set on taking over Buffalo, currently the domain of Frank's snowplough-owning Polish mob family.

Sent to San Francisco to dry out, a sullen Frank finds himself in a very different world. His life now revolves around AA meetings, attended with his amiable sponsor, gay tollbooth cashier Tom (Luke Wilson). Then there's his new job as a mortuary attendant in a funeral home. It's while prettifying a corpse, however, that Frank meets commercial airtime saleswoman Laurel (Téa Leoni). The two might resemble Beauty and the Beast, but they share the same sense of humour, and it isn't long before they are dating. Can two such equally matched yet contrasting characters ever have a successful relationship, especially when Laurel has 'boundary issues' and Frank insists on being totally honest about everything, including the fact he kills people for a living? In the meantime, things are going from bad to worse in Buffalo, as O'Leary's men set about eliminating their Polish opposition.

The juxtaposition of comedy with alcoholism and mob violence doesn't, on the face of it, sound promising, but I was agreeably surprised by You Kill Me. It's a thoroughly enjoyable, quirky, comic film, which benefits from a smart, wittily humorous script and strong performances from the leads and supporting cast alike. Who would have guessed that craggy, bald-as-a-coot Kingsley (House Of Sand And Fog, Sexy Beast) and classy, beautiful Leoni (Spanglish, Fun With Dick And Jane remake) could make such a perfect bantering couple, reminiscent of the great Hollywood oddball pairings? As for the plot, switching between Buffalo and San Francisco provides a striking contrast and keeps the pace moving whenever it threatens to flag. There are also astute asides about the conduct of AA meetings in different cities and the preoccupations of those who attend them. Interestingly, some comedic moments shouldn't work, yet do.

The idea that a hitman might announce his occupation to all and sundry at an AA meeting is ludicrous, yet a deadpan Kingsley makes it seem perfectly normal, and Leoni's silent mouth-open reaction is the icing on the cake. Frank teaching Laurel the techniques of being a hitman may also seem preposterous, but in Dahl's capable hands it becomes a touching comment on the couple's deepening relationship rather than anything more sinister. In fact, Kingsley and Leoni don't put a foot wrong throughout, and the latter's performance is, thankfully, free of the irritating frantic scattiness we are more used to seeing from her.

DVD extras include a director's commentary, a behind-the-scenes featurette, and a special effects' featurette.

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