This one’ll kill you
YOU KILL ME ★★★ Directed by John Dahl. Starring Ben Kingsley, Téa Leoni, Luke Wilson, Bill Pullman, Philip Baker Hall Club, IFI, Dublin, 90 min
WHEN, a decade and a half ago, John Dahl hit gold with Red Rock West and The Last Seduction, a few million noir addicts gleefully threw their snap-brim fedoras into the air. It looked as if the genre might, after all, have a life beyond pastiche. Since then, Mr Dahl’s career has undergone sufficient floundering to make a film as ordinary as You Kill Me seem like a return to form.
Ben Kingsley stars as a PolishAmerican hitman who, after sleeping through an appointment to kill a rival boss, is sent to San Francisco for rest and rehab. He secures a job working in a mortuary, groans his way through a few AA meetings and, more through accident than design, stumbles into a relationship with wry Téa Leoni. She soon learns his two big secrets, but seems more disturbed by the boozing than the murdering.
You Kill Me appears to believe it is moving through uncharted territory. In fact, after Grosse Pointe Blank, The Sopranos and Analyse This, we are all a little too familiar with the gangster whose mundane problems are unsettlingly similar to our own.
The film does offer pleasures. Resisting the temptation to gorge on San Francisco’s conspicuous beauty, Dahl allows the meaner corners of the city to reassert their street credentials. Kingsley remains very good at ringing a kind of elegant stupidity from ordinary villainy, and the film manages just enough decent jokes to distract from its hostility to motivation.
All that noted, You Kill Me doesn’t add up to very much. Built around one flimsy high concept, the picture barely manages to find things to do with its modest running time and never seems confident in its faintly larky tone. The campaign to revive noir’s mouldering corpse continues.