Frank Falenczyk (Ben Kingsley) has a drinking habit and it’s messing with his work. Which is a big problem, because a professional hitman isn’t supposed to nod off on the job. Exiled to San Francisco to attend AA meetings by mob boss Philip Baker Hall, Frank is set up with an apartment and a job at a funeral home by shady local estate agent Dave (Bill Pullman). The dead people he can handle, but AA is definitely not Frank’s cup of tea. Then he meets corporate saleswoman Laurel (Téa Leoni) at a wake and at last he’s got something worth shooting for.
About a decade or so ago, director John Dahl was carving out a name for himself with a tasty trio of insidiously amoral neo-noir comedies: Kill Me Again, Red Rock West and his most celebrated turn, The Last Seduction. His more recent output has been erratic (chase chiller Roadkill, war drama The Great Raid), so it’s good to see him returning to the scene of the crime. There’s no denying that You Kill Me is a bit of a mixed bag, but it’s eccentric – and funny – enough to ride over the rough patches.
These would include a flat subplot about warring crime families (Hall on one side, Greek godfather Dennis Farina on the other) that’s only there to set up some sort of an ending, and several thinly motivated story developments. Then there’s Kingsley’s curious accent – a remnant from the old country, presumably…
Still, we can put up with the irritations to relish what merry hell a loose cannon like Frank can create in an earnest AA group. And his sparky relationship with a deliciously tart Leoni is priceless. "Sure, he’s a killer with a drinking problem", she figures, "but at least he’s not gay". Their flirtatious encounter at the funeral parlour must be one of the least cute meet-cutes in rom-com history. This Laurel is one tough cookie and for our money, Leoni’s performance is little short of a career best.