You Kill Me

George Carlin observed that any topic can be made humorous with sufficient exaggeration. This theory is tested, successfully, with You Kill Me, a movie that blends alcoholism, romance, and professional killings.

Frank Falczenyk (Ben Kingsley) lives in Buffalo, NY, where he works as an assassin for his uncle Roman (Philip Baker Hall), leader of the Polish mob. Frank is also a heavy and continual drinker, and when he lets Irish mob leader Edward O'Leary (Dennis Farina) survive to make it to an important meeting, Roman sends Frank off to San Francisco to get sobered up.

In California Roman's watchdog Dave (Bill Pullman) sets Frank up with an apartment and a job in a funeral home. This job leads Frank to meeting Laurel (Tea Leoni), an attractive woman who's less than put off at the death of one of her relatives. Frank also starts going to AA, gets a sponsor in Tom (Owen Wilson), and starts to consider his faults. But Frank keeps relapsing, and back east the Irish mob is getting stronger and stronger.

You Kill Me is a more subtle comedy than many, with most of the humor coming from the ordinary way Frank (and soon, his circle of support) accept his role as a hired killer with near-perfect equanimity. Indeed, the disbelief that Frank has at his first AA meeting is mirrored in the others when Frank starts talking openly about his job. The cast is perfect: Ben Kingsley is wonderful as a man who has to face his life without alcohol for the first time ever, Tea Leoni shines as a woman who finds more to support in her new man than he does, and the supporting cast creates an air of realism to the situation. There is an amoral element to the story: Frank is the protagonist who's unrepentant about his life of killing, even while trying to change other parts of his life, and no one else seems bothered by his former and future profession as a killer.

You Kill Me doesn't have a lot of laugh-out-loud moments, but it provides its audience with intelligence, good acting, a nice sense of humor throughout, and -- a rarity for a comedy -- realism. This is a very enjoyable comedy.

Overall Grade: B+

Reviewed by James Lynch

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