John Dahl

 John Dahl
You could do a lot worse to kill time than watch this eminently decent crime comedy, which isn’t much but manages somehow to never wear out its welcome.

Ben Kingsley plays a hit man who doubles as an alcoholic; his latest drinking binge caused him to miss an important job and thus jeopardise the fate of his Buffalo crime family. Sent to San Fran to dry out, he falls in love with TV ad salesperson Tea Leoni and seems to be on the rebound. But not only is kicking the habit more difficult than it looks, a rival gang is about to destroy what little his bosses have left.

This could easily have been broad and silly but John Dahl has returned from the wilderness to do the clipped noir that used to be his stock-in-trade. Never once inflating the snappy script beyond its pleasant inconsequentiality, he manages to garner big sympathy for his soused assassin while getting some good performances from the supporting cast. Though Luke Wilson’s AA sponsor is a role with nowhere to go, Leoni takes her hard-bitten character and runs with it. As well, Philip Baker Hall does well with his declining crime lord and Dennis Farina has some nice scenes as Hall’s competitor and ultimate nemesis.

I don’t want to give the impression that this has anything substantial to say but the film is largely plausible, often funny and has a nice climactic scene with Farina staring down a killer he underestimates. And while there are perhaps more pressing films in the marketplace, you can easily mark this down as one to catch on DVD.