Mediocre Mob Comedy about Alcoholic Assassin on the Road to Sobriety
Excuse me for expecting more of John Dahl, the director of such gripping psychological thrillers as Red Rock West (1992), The Last Seduction (1994) and Rounders (1998). But I suppose something can happen when one ventures into unfamiliar territory, as occurred a couple of years ago, when he made The Great Raid, a cheesy, romantic soap opera masquerading as a war flick.
Now Dahl has ventured into yetta anudda genre, the mafia comedy, and come up with the equally-disappointing You Kill Me, a frustrating mix of humor and drama which never quite decides whether it wants to be taken seriously or just for the jokes. The film stars Sir Ben Kingsley as Frank Falenczyk, a mobster ostensibly-inspired by Robert De Niro’s in Analyze This (1999).
But where the protagonist in Analyze This was a head case on the verge of a nervous breakdown, this assassin is an alcoholic who relies on a 12-step program. After he botches an assignment to execute the don (Dennis Farina) of a crime family competing for control of Buffalo, Frank is sent by his boss (Philip Baker Hall) to San Francisco to dry out. There, on the road back to sobriety, he attends AA meetings, admitting not only that he is an alcoholic but a murderer, too. Trusting that everyone in the group will keep his confidences, he confesses that “I’m here to get sober and go back to killing people full-time.”
In spite of owning up to his grisly line of work, Frank is befriended by his gay sponsor (Luke Wilson), a toll taker on the Golden Gate Bridge. He also takes a job at a mortuary, and starts to date Laurel (Tea Leoni), a brassy businesswoman with boundary issues. She becomes unusually intrigued by what he does for a living, and opts to abandon her own career to accompany her new beau back to Buffalo as a gun moll, when he is called back to deal with a gang of Irish muscling on his syndicate’s turf.
Unfortunately, Tea, a gifted actress who has been hilarious in Spanglish (2004) and Hollywood Ending (2002), is simply abandoned by a script which is never very funny, yet too preposterous on its face to be taken seriously. The same is the case for Sir Ben, who gives only a few flashes of the form of a four-time Oscar-nominee here. An unsatisfying compromise flick on the fence which might have worked had it either been played straight or purely for laughs.