You Kill Me John Dahl

You Kill Me John Dahl

It’s winter, there’s polka music on the wireless and you’re out of pirogues, oh, and you’re in Buffalo. So who, I ask you, wouldn’t hit the vodka? But for Frank Falenczyk, button man for the Polish mob, a certain punctiliousness is mandatory and after sleeping through one too many hits, Frank is shipped off to San Francisco to dry out. As played by a goateed and black-liveried Sir Ben Kingsley — extra-taciturn to better swallow his insecurities and wobbly Buffalo accent — Frank shuttles between AA meetings and a make work job at (ooh, irony) a mortuary in search of his absentee mojo. Though he seems as open and pliable as a fist, sobriety comes easily to Frank and the sanctity of his much-used AA confessional is never in doubt, so the dramatic stakes never come to a boil. The group, like love interest Lauren (Téa Leoni), who Frank meets over her uncle’s corpse, is bought off by Frank’s "everyone I killed knew it was a possibility” mentality, so icky moral qualms are likewise happily dispensed with. Leoni’s Hepburn-esque, good-at-games coltishness works well here but the total lack of back-story leaves us a little baffled as to why she’s so unperturbed by the age difference and his line of work. Meanwhile, back in Buffalo, which, like San Francisco, is well-rendered by Winnipeg, Frank’s Polish confreres are in a turf war with the Irish mob (led by Dennis Farina, busting out from the Italian mobster casting ghetto), wherein — as with academic politics — things get so nasty because the stakes (snowploughing routes) are so small. Director Dahl, continuing to follow up Red Rock West and The Last Seduction with a slow descent into milquetoast-ery, has trouble mediating between the black and the comedy. Grosse Pointe Blank, the obvious referent, had a subtler tone and a longer, less predictable arc; here, our takeaway is pretty much only some tepid 12-step-isms and a yawn-inducing paean to the redemptive power of a good woman. The extras, similarly, are thin. There are a (by-now pro forma) "behind the scenes” thingy — stop the presses: everybody loved everybody — and a commentary track with Dahl and the screenwriters, who seem more geeked to talk about themselves and their "craft” than to impart any great insight. (Hidden Agenda)