LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN (Paul McGuigan). 110 minutes. Opens Friday (April 7). For venues and times, see Movie Listings. Rating: NN Rating: NN
When a hero with a broken nose talks tough to crime kingpins, you know you're on noir turf. When he plays it for jokes, it's Tarantinoir. But when the movie's crammed with Bruce Willis , Morgan Freeman , Lucy Liu , Ben Kingsley , Stanley Tucci , Danny Aiello and Robert Forster - all playing it for jokes - it smacks of punk-ass desperation. Beg for your box office, Lucky Number Slevin! Eat the scraps of The Benchwarmers!
After the faltering but serious thriller Wicker Park, director Paul McGuigan reteams with Josh Hartnett , this time working from a super-clever superficial script by Jason Smilovic . Hartnett plays a deadbeat who might owe gangsters a lot of money. Freeman and Kingsley play battling crime bosses. Willis is a shadowy assassin, and Liu is the ultra-convenient love interest. Not only does she live next door, but she's also a coroner!
Early on, Willis's character describes a Kansas City Shuffle, a classic con-artist dodge. That's the card to watch. Lucky Number Slevin suffers from an excess of fancy plotting and a dearth of real character. You could call it The Small Lebowski.