Sir Ben Kingsley rocks. He's not underestimated. With each role, you see the character, not Ben Kingsley giving a turn. Does he make movies work that with a lesser actor would not? That's what happens with the dark comedy, You Kill Me.
Frank (Kingsley) is an excellent hit man. You learn that his alcoholism has been getting in the way of his work for some time. Getting drunk, falling asleep and missing assignments get him into trouble. His mafioso uncle Roman (Philip Baker Hall) and other members of the "family" in Buffalo, NY, conduct an intervention when Frank's most recent lapse costs his Polish family their corner in the Buffalo mafia. He's sent to San Francisco, where Dave (Bill Pullman) a family friend/operative can keep an eye on Frank to make sure he kicks the vodka and stays out of trouble. Nothing changes initially.
Dave gets Frank a job at a mortuary. Frank is resistant. Dave threatens to tell Roman. Frank acquiesces. Frank turns out to be a pretty good employee, adept at make-up and prepping lifeless faces for their wakes. He starts attending AA. There he meets Tom (Luke Wilson) who becomes Frank's sponsor. When Frank starts to believe in AA, he opens up to Tom first, then his group about what he does for a living. Here's where another actor may have crossed the line into ridiculous. The way Kingsley's Frank does it, you buy it and even the short-lived initial surprise of his cohorts is comedic.
When Laurel's (Téa Leoni) step-father dies, she drops off his too-small bowling shoes (for the body) to the funeral home. She meets Frank. Frank is smitten and asks her out. They start dating. Soon, Frank outs himself to Laurel. She's okay with it because at least he hasn't confessed her worst fear...that he's gay. Leoni's Laurel is a delight. She's funny, sharp-tongued and hard-shelled. Their chemistry is real. Add Wilson's Tom and you have chemistry. I'd never have guessed these three would mesh, but they do. The movie progresses until things have gotten so jacked-up in Buffalo, that Frank returns to kick ass and take names (shouldn't it be take names and then kick ass? How do you know what asses to kick without names first?) But, what about Laurel? Will she stay in San Francisco pining away for Frank? This is *not* that movie. You could say it's a surprising romantic comedy with edge.
Director: John Dahl
Run time: 93 minutes