You Kill Me

You Kill Me movie poster


The first thing to say about You Kill Me is to give props to Ben Kings­ley, if for no other rea­son than my fear that he will break my kneecaps if I don’t. Even after his ter­ri­fy­ing turn in Sexy Beast, it’s still a sur­prise to see it is per­fectly nat­ural for him to take the role of Frank, an almost super­hu­manly tal­ented mob assas­sin. For a man of a cer­tain age who once played Ghandi, he can cer­tainly act up some seri­ous phys­i­cal men­ace. But You Kill Me gives him a chance to enrich this char­ac­ter type instead of merely repeat it. In Sexy Beast, he was funny because he was so very extremely men­ac­ing. Here, his char­ac­ter is men­ac­ing and funny.

You Kill Me is a bicoastal film, lit­er­ally illus­trat­ing Frank’s dif­fer­ent worlds by set­ting the action in two dif­fer­ent cities. In Buf­falo, You Kill Me shares with The Sopra­nos a look into the oper­a­tions of modern-day gang­sters. Their lives are some­what less excit­ing than the fan­tasy lucra­tive lifestyle seen in The God­fa­ther and Scar­face, but still sharply divided by cul­tural her­itage and iden­tity. Frank may seem to be a pathetic fig­ure, but when sober, he is the sole fac­tor keep­ing his small-time Pol­ish crime fam­ily in business.

Ben Kingsley and Tea Leoni in You Kill MeYeah, I find alco­holic assas­sins irre­sistible too

The prob­lem is, he is sober less and less when the story opens, and his fam­ily must fix him in order to sur­vive. So Frank is ordered from Buf­falo to San Fran­cisco to dry out, leav­ing behind his fam­ily (both by blood and crim­i­nal asso­ci­a­tion) and yet quickly forg­ing a new one: Dave (Bill Pull­man), a shady real-estate dealer no bet­ter than a gang­ster him­self; Tom (Luke Wil­son), a gay fel­low alco­holic; and implau­si­ble love inter­est Lau­rel (Téa Leoni, also an exec­u­tive producer).

Ben Kingsley in You Kill MeThis man played Ghandi

The prob­lem with Lau­rel is not only the creepy age dif­fer­en­tial (a long-standing Hol­ly­wood pox from which it seems even indies aren’t immune), but with Laurel’s under­de­vel­oped char­ac­ter. What lit­tle we learn of her his­tory (a recently deceased, unloved step­fa­ther) seems insuf­fi­cient to explain what makes her so lonely and des­per­ate that she would attach her­self to pos­si­bly the most unsta­ble and unre­li­able per­son in the world. What hap­pened to her to make her so blasé and amoral that she clings so fer­vently to Frank and cross the coun­try to risk her life for him?

Offi­cial movie site:

Buy the DVD from Ama­zon and kick back a few pen­nies to me.