I remembered seeing trailers and commercials for this movie when it originally came on TV and really wanted to see it, but didn't and then totally forgot about it. When I got HBO this year and it came on, I decided casually to record it, not expecting much because I didn't remember much about what the movie was about. I was really pleasantly surprised, and liked it so much that I rented it a few weeks later to watch with my girlfriend in this widescreen edition, and she loved it as well.
I only give 5 stars to products that I love, and this is a movie that I love. I saw it twice in one month and thoroughly enjoyed it both times. At its heart, it's a mystery, which seems like a dwindling genre but this movie does it really well. The movie begins with Bruce Willis telling a flashback and then really begins with Josh Hartnett (Slevin) having bad luck (fired at work, girlfriend sleeping with another guy, getting robbed) and then being visited upon by mobsters working for Morgan Freeman claiming that he owes money because he's staying at a friend's place who's really the debtor. The story just unfolds from there as they try to figure out where his friend could be and how to pay back his debts to Morgan Freeman and Ben Kingsley.
Let's start with the cast: awesome. I couldn't think of anything bad to say about anyone. I LOVED Morgan Freeman and Ben Kingsley as opposing crime lords. You know that an actor is great when you've seen several of his movies before but when you're watching the movie at hand you forget about all those roles and can only think about how great they are in this one. I'm usually not a Lucy Liu fan, except for Kill Bill, but movies like this somehow really highlight her talents. She's the cute, hyperactive next door neighbor, and I believe her character throughout the movie. Josh Hartnett and Bruce Willis are also great in their roles, but for me to explain what those roles are would spoil too much of the story.
I think that the pacing is spot on, the writing is believable and witty, and the story really does keep you guessing until near the end, when you start putting together the dots. Unlike Veronica Mars episodes, you actually have a chance to figure out the mystery before the very end, but when you have this much fun watching it unfold, what's the point? I don't know how they do this, but the movie takes itself seriously and pokes fun at various elements of dark humor throughout the film, and it's part of what keeps the movie watchable in repeat viewings.
I have a 1080p LCD TV with an upscaling DVD player, and the video quality was excellent. Nothing to complain about there, or about the audio. The commentary track is actually pretty fun to listen to, and there are a couple of good deleted scenes to boot. I don't know why so many critics didn't like it, but it sounds like they were trying to be snooty because it felt like it was trying to be like Pulp Fiction at times if you put on your movie geek cap. Or maybe not every likes this brand of humor? It's not particularly unique, but that doesn't mean it's not good. Anyway, it's worth at least a rent if not a buy. I think you'll probably end up buying though so you can watch it again and again.