It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Has "The Sopranos" whacked the mob comedy? It sure feels that way -- at least for now. Just about anything is going to feel slight next to David Chase's 86-episode magnum opus, the rare genre piece that matches or exceeds its influences, from "The Godfather" movies to "GoodFellas". But "You Kill Me" is as flimsy and uninspired as the double entendre of its title. It looks lightweight next to "Analyze This." Maybe even "Analyze That."
This time, the mobster doesn't go to a shrink, he goes to AA meetings. Drinking, you see, interferes with his work -- as a hit man. You can't kill people effectively if you're drunk and pass out before your mark arrives.
Although it is ostensibly set in present-day Buffalo and San Francisco, the comic sensibility of "You Kill Me" is curiously retrograde. The movie begins with a couple of Polish jokes under the opening credits. The first one is pretty good: Alcoholic contract killer Frank Falenczyk (Ben Kingsley) shovels his front sidewalk, repeatedly tossing his fifth of vodka into the snow as an incentive to keep forging ahead. The second one is just a setup/punchline gag overheard on a radio talk show: "How do you get a one-armed Polack out of a tree? You wave to him." From there, the movie switches targets and degenerates into a stream of gay jokes so witless they don't even qualify as jokes.
"You Kill Me" features extremely talented people doing everything they can to improve a thin and puerile script. Director John Dahl is a master of modern absurdist noir ("Red Rock West," "The Last Seduction," "Rounders"). Cinematographer Jeffrey Jur splashes the screen with intense blue and yellow gels and creates angular, shadow-streaked widescreen compositions that translate a noirish sensibility into vivid color. And the cast is a dream: Kingsley, Tea Leoni, Bill Pullman, Luke Wilson, and as rival mob bosses, Dennis Farina and Philip Baker Hall.