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The Wrong Man

Year: 2006
Production Co: FilmEngine
Director: Paul McGuigan
Cast: Josh Hartnett, Bruce Willis, Lucy Liu, Morgan Freeman, Ben Kinglsey, Stanley Tucci, Mykelti Williamson
Create a cast of characters with varied, violently colliding agendas, including a stealthy, Dr Crippen-style killer, corrupt cops and crime kingpins. Throw in an everyday schmoe stuck in the middle of a convoluted whirlpool of intrigue and double crosses. Sprinkle in a beautiful woman, stir vigourously with the profanity and violence the rating allows. Toss with smart, quotable dialogue and serve in a plot laced with mystery.

It's the recipe for a thoroughly modern noir thriller, the kind Hitchcock built the most popular work in his career on and which Hollywood revisits every few years in films from The Sting all the way through to Wild Things.

It's the ultimate in storytelling because as the audience, your awareness is the key to how it unravels. What else was the whole film noir movement been but people with hidden motives that you aren't allowed to see and understand until the end?

When you meet characters with names like The Rabbi, The Boss and Goodkat, it's plain director McGuigan (Gangster No. 1, Wicker Park) wants to bring you a slice of old time Hollywood intrigue from a time when noir could be both gritty and glamourous.

Slevin (Hartnett) is the wrong man of the title. Following an introductory coda of a man paying a bad betting debt with his and his families lives, we meet the young man as he turns up to his friend's New York apartment with a hard luck story and a broken nose. With no sign of his friend and after meeting vivacious neighbour Lindsey (Liu), Slevin answers the door to two goons who assume he's the man of the house and take him to their crime lord boss (Freeman) to pay up a debt belonging to Slevin's absent friend. The Boss gives him an alternative to the $96,000 they claim he owes; kill the son of The Boss' biggest rival, The Rabbi (Kingsley).

Barely back through the door of the apartment, and with Lindsey convinced there's a mystery to be solved, The Rabbi's goons (orthodox Jews with guns) collect him to pay up another debt of mistaken identity.

Drifting throughout the background is the dark, mysterious hitman Goodkat (Willis) and a team of cops led by Brikowski (Tucci) trying to find out what the unlucky newcomer's up to.

Violent and at times shocking killings pepper the story, and as the bodies pile up you'll be drawn in, wondering just who's playing who and why. In true movie fashion, the last 60 seconds is a barrage of reveals, tying every character together -living or dead - and allowing us hope that the hero gets the girl and rides off into the sunset.

It's funny, rude, bloody and clever. At times the dialogue stumbles, becoming so showy it overshadows the story, but it's a classic tale of twists and turns, good guys and bad guys. Cine-snobs will claim they had it all worked out before McGuigan shows us everything that's going on, and you might too, but that's no reason not to enjoy getting there.

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