Director: John Dahl | 92 minutes | thriller, comedy, crime | Actors: Ben Kingsley, Téa Leoni, Dennis Farina, Luke Wilson, Philip Baker Hall, Bill Pullman, Scott Heindl, Aaron Hughes, Lorraine James, Micheline Marchildon, Devin McCracken, Tracy McMahon, Katie Messina, Joanne Rodriguez, Marcus Thomas, Darren Wall , Warren Lou
Black humor is intriguing. It gives us as viewers the opportunity to gloat to morally reprehensible behavior, without any consequences. Murder, deceit and crime are put in a comical context, all that is left is laughter. “You Kill Me” strikes an uncomfortable balance between black humor and a story of unusual love. It provides moments of laughter, but is ultimately too ordinary to impress.
Frank Falenczyk (Ben Kingsley) is a hitman and alcoholic. He works for the local Polish mafia in Buffalo and has to kill the leader of the local Irish mafia one evening. The next morning, however, Dennis O’Leary (Dennis Farina) is still happily walking around and Frank is sleeping off his intoxication in the car. The gun is unused.
Frank is punished like a naughty schoolboy by his boss Roman (Philip Baker Hall) and sent to San Francisco to sober up. In San Francisco is the boring real estate agent Dave (Bill Pullman) who keeps an eye on things. Grumbling, Frank goes to AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meetings and befriends gay Tom (Luke Wilson).
Love comes unexpectedly when he bumps into Laurel (Téa Leoni) at his temporary job as a funeral director. Lauren is straightforward, cheerful, and most of all interested in Frank. Frank isn’t handsome, interesting or charismatic, but Laurel wants him. As long as, she threatens several times, he is not secretly gay. Frank’s goal is clear: Stop drinking so he can stay with Laurel and kill again.
John Dahl is a gifted director, let that be clear. In the 1990s he made the strong “Red Rock West” and the brilliant “The Last Seduction”, but in “You Kill Me” he makes a mistake. He chooses to make Kingsley and Leoni serious and credible characters, and that clashes with the content of the film. The characters are too real for the bizarre situations in the movie. Why is Frank’s confessions about his profession not met with disgust? Why do Laurel and Tom applaud his rehabilitation as a murderer? The relationship between the characters is too serious and the viewer doesn’t really know when to laugh.
The final suddenly gets a high Bonnie & Clyde quality – another unbelievable thing – and quickly rages through the neglected subplot about the gangster war in Buffalo. “You Kill Me” isn’t a bad movie, but it doesn’t have any sharp edges as to why it should stick with you. The star cast is too good this case, maybe Dahl would have been better off with some lesser known headlines, and a little less depth of character to better exploit the script’s lightheartedness.