Dir. John Dahl, US, 2007, 93 mins
Cast: Ben Kingsley, Tea Leoni, Luke Wilson
Review by Carol Allen
The pun in the title here gives the flavour the movie, which is a dark comedy about an alcoholic assassin. Frank (Kingsley) is hit man to the "family business" in Buffalo, an area which appears to be riven with conflict between rival gangs - the Poles led by Frank's uncle Roman (Philip Baker Hall) and the Irish under Edward O'Leary (Denis Farina). When Frank's drinking problem causes him to botch the assassination of O'Leary - he literally falls asleep on the job - Uncle Roman sends him off to San Francisco (why San Francisco we never discover) with instructions to dry out and get his act together.
Kingsley, who sports an iconically funny little woolly hat almost throughout, approaches the role with a deadpan laconic humour. Not best known for comedy, Kingsley also rarely gets a chance at romance on screen, but here he has a quirky love affair with Laurel (Leoni), which is entertainingly played for dry humour rather than animal passion. There's something pretty quirky in fact about most of the characters, including Dave (Bill Pullman) the dodgy looking estate agent, who fixes Frank up with an apartment and a job in a mortuary and Tom (Wilson), who befriends and sponsors him in Alcoholics Anonymous, which he claims to attend because it's a good place to pick up men. Although interestingly Tom's sexual preferences is a subject, which is never mentioned again. The A.A meetings, which appear to be held in draughty church halls with the leader giving the A.A. equivalent of parish notices at the start, are sharply and satirically observed. The one where Frank finally confesses his alcoholism and describes what he does for a living in the most matter of fact of ways ("Please, help me give up drinking and get back to work") leaving the congregation more than somewhat nonplussed, is very amusing. And when the now clean and sober Frank goes back to Buffalo to sort out a bit of nasty family business, his story is brought to a satisfying and unexpected conclusion.
While somewhat loose in structure and sporting a few loose ends, the film is full of unexpected and funny little plot twists, which take you by surprise. It's admittedly a bit slight compared to some of Dahl's earlier work, such as Red Rock West and The Last Seduction, but he handles the story with a nice light touch, making it an entertaining and offbeat movie.