(Editor's note: This review is an expansion of Cinematical's Sundance review of Lucky Number Slevin.)
Once upon a time, crime films were grim; gritty; bleak. Then Tarantino came along (and there were precedents before him, but never mind) and crime films changed -- now, the sounds issuing off the screen weren't just the crack and ricochet of bullets, but the zing! of snappy patter and high-speed wordplay. The regrettably-named Lucky Number Slevin isn't a post-Tarantino crime film; it's a post-post-post-Tarantino crime film, and when you're the millionth director to stagger through what used to be undiscovered country, it's hard to look like a pioneer.
Directed by Paul McGuigan (Gangster Number One), Lucky Number Slevin is a candy-colored crime movie that, after a few preliminary murders, starts as a wheelchair-bound man (Bruce Willis) is killing time at the train station by telling a young man about a fixed horse race. Flashing back to the '70s, Willis relates how father and husband Max came across the info about how a certain nag was a sure thing, bet all his money … and lost. Owing the money -- and being privy to a private fix -- led the two newest crime bosses in New York to punish Max by killing him. And his wife. And his son. What do murders that took place 30 years ago have to do with the here-and-now? Well, that's a long story; it's too bad it's not an entertaining one.