The opening credits for Lucky Number Slevin are shown as if entries in ledgers, as indistinct voices are heard relaying play-by-play for a horse race. A telephone is shown in a hotel room.
Bookie Slim Hopkins is walking toward his car. Just as he leans over to open it, a bullet from behind sends his head through the door window and kills him. The legs and feet of the assassin are shown standing on a small platform being elevated toward the top of the garage. As Slim lies dead beside his car, someone takes his ledger.
The opening credits continue in the same format, as the same indistinct voices relay more play-by-play on a horse race.
Two men are bringing a third into the office of bookie Benny Begin. The two men frisk the third and tell Begin that he is clean. Benny puts away his gun in his desk drawer and asks the third man why he is here. The third man slowly removes his eyeglasses and stealthily plucks off one of the ear rests. The exposed hinge has a needle-like point suitable for puncturing flesh, and the third man uses this to stab and kill the two guards. Begin scrambles to recover his gun, but the man has snatched a baseball off of a bookshelf beside the door. A fastball pitch worthy of Nolan Ryan is hurled right at Begin’s face, slamming between his eyes and killing him. The killer takes Benny’s ledger.
A scruffy man (Sam Jaeger) walks into a waiting room at a bus terminal, which is currently deserted except for a homeless woman sleeping across two of the chairs. The scruffy man is pulling along a wheeled suitcase, preparing to go on a trip. He sits tiredly and nods off as he waits.
Without his noticing, another man, identifying himself as ‘just Smith’ (Bruce Willis), is suddenly sitting beside him in a wheelchair. Smith says to the scruffy man, ‘There was a time’ and says he’s in town because of a ‘Kansas City Shuffle.’ The scruffy man doesn’t know what this means, and Smith says it’s a maneuver where you get everyone to look right, and then you go left. A bit impatient, the scruffy man says he hasn’t heard of it. Smith says it’s not something people hear about; it falls on mostly deaf ears. Smith’s shuffle is twenty years in the making, or so he claims, and that it requires a lot of planning, and a lot of people, connected by the slightest of events long forgotten by those people. And it all began with a horse.
Smith’s voiceover explains his ‘Kansas City Shuffle’ as the events begin showing on the screen. (A caption shows the events begin at the Aqueduct Race Track in New York back in 1979). The starting event was known back then as a drugstore handicap; doping up a horse with performance-enhancing drugs to increase its chance of winning a particular race. The vet called in to administer the drugs, however, had loose lips, and carelessly spills the beans to a young blonde prostitute named Gloria who he has sex with. After the vet falls asleep, Gloria quietly calls another john of hers named Abe and tells him about the horse in question. Abe tells a friend of his at a nightclub as they are being served drinks, and the waiter overhears. He wastes little time telling his nephew, Max (Scott Gibson), a working-class man longing for a better life for his wife and their young son Henry.
Max takes Henry to what Max’s wife assumes is a baseball game, and they have a cover story arranged about the results of said game. Henry even wears a baseball glove in which he holds a baseball. In reality, Max is going into Aqueduct to bet on the ‘fixed’ race. Because Henry is a young boy, he has to wait in the car. Max assures him the race is a sure thing and will pay for his college education at Harvard. Next week, Max tells Henry, they’ll go to a real ball game. Max gives Henry his watch; Max is supposed to spend no more than 15 minutes inside the track.
Max watches with butterflies in his stomach as the race progresses. Coming into the final turn, he is elated to find that the seventh horse, the doped one he bet on, is taking the lead from the outside. He nearly jumps for joy as the horse makes a final rush toward the finish line. But that joy turns to sick horror as the horse suddenly collapses a mere few lengths short of the finish. Smith’s voiceover then explains that Max is now in very serious trouble…
Because the race was a ‘sure’ thing, Max made a dangerously bold move, placing a bet of twenty thousand dollars with a bookie named Roth (Danny Aiello). Roth is very suspicious of Max; the amount of his bet alone stands out like a sore thumb to a seasoned bookie like him. He refuses to accept the given odds on the horse Max is betting on, telling Max he will get no better than two-to-one. The bet has a ‘juice’ or interest rate of ten percent, meaning Max will be 22 thousand in the hole if the horse doesn’t win. Furthermore, Roth will need to ‘lay off’ Max’s bet, placing the bet with other bookies more capable of handling such large gambling bets. The bookies in question work for very dangerous men, and Max owing them money, especially in the sums discussed, is the very last thing Max will want, as Roth warns him. Max insisted to Roth he can cover the bet.
But as Max returns to the parking lot in a daze, he finds that twenty-two thousand dollars is the least of his worries. His car, and young son Henry, are missing. As he frantically calls out Henry’s name, two men approach from either side, and suddenly grab Max and sap him out cold.
Max awakes in a basement, tied to a chair, his face bloodied. Two men pace around near him, one wearing a ring with a square face; another holding a shotgun. As Max desperately tries to tell the men that Roth will explain everything, a car parks at a curb, a shotgun resting on the passenger seat.
Two other men slug Max’s belly and tell him that Roth already did ‘explain’ everything to them: Roth’s dead corpse, the chest and stomach riddled with bullets, sits slumped on the floor off to Max’s right. As Max begins to plead for his life, the driver of the car picks up his shotgun and exits– and in the reflection of the driver’s window is an apartment building looking very much like Max’s. He approaches the fire escape and begins to climb its stairs.
Henry stands outside Max’s car which is parked in what appears to be a desolate field. A man in a tan suit stands behind him. Max’s wife, doing dishes in her kitchen, smiles as the door to the fire escape opens, but a man she does not recognize, whose face is unseen, stands in the doorway and levels a shotgun at her breast. Max’s wife drops her dishes, looking bleakly at the man, knowing she is about to die. At the same time, the man standing behind Henry out in the desolate field points a gun at his head, cocking the hammer.
A plastic bag is jammed down over Max’s head as he continues to plead frantically. Heavy duct tape seals the plastic in an airtight lock around his neck. A gunshot rings out and blood spatters across a child’s sketches taped to a wall.
The scene returns to the bus terminal’s waiting room as Smith’s story finishes. The scruffy man is dumbstruck, though he doesn’t understand why Max’s family was killed. Smith says it was a new outfit in town, who had learned that the race was fixed and a very large bet had been placed with their bookies on the doped-up horse, and decided to make ‘an impression.’ The scruffy man asks if this is the Kansas City Shuffle that Smith alluded to. Smith says it is merely the inciting incident. He points off to one side, saying that was the Shuffle. The scruffy man turns, seeing nothing there, and then turns back to Smith– who is no longer in the wheelchair, but standing behind him. Repeating the phrase that ‘they look right, and you go left,’ Smith grabs the scruffy man and breaks his neck, killing him.
Smith puts the man’s body in the wheelchair and pushes it, thereby looking inconspicuous. He pushes the wheelchair with the body into the cargo hold of a white truck, driving it off.
The scene switches to two well-dressed men stepping out of an exclusive building in Manhattan. The younger of the two men is gunned down with a single expertly-placed gunshot as his guard scrambles to try and spot the shooter.
Back in the hotel room, the phone begins to ring.
Slevin Kelevra (Josh Hartnett) wipes steam off a bathroom mirror as he finishes up shaving. Slevin is nursing a broken nose. As he wipes the remaining shaving cream off his face, a pounding knock is heard at his door. Clad only in a towel, he goes to answer the door, the pounding not abating even though he calls out he is coming. He opens the door and a young woman named Lindsey (Lucy Liu) quickly walks in, unruffled at finding that the man standing before her is not ‘Nick.’ Slevin makes a curious remark about Lindsey having a ‘deceptively tall knock…’ the sound of her pounding on the door echoed in a way that sounded like it was hitting high on the door, so Slevin thought she was much taller than she turned out to be.
Lindsey asks what happened to Slevin’s nose. He says he was hit by someone– and he was expecting it. He begins to tell Lindsey a story of bad things happening in threes: first he lost his job, then came home to find out the building where his apartment was, had been condemned. He went to the home of his girlfriend Kelly, and walked in on her having sex with another man.
So Slevin flew into New York to spend some time with a good friend of his– Nick. After the flight landed, he was talking to Nick on his cell phone when a man started walking beside him and asked him for a smoke, then demanded his wallet, and punched him in the nose, breaking it.
Lindsey notes that this is four bad things, not three. She also notes that the mugger didn’t take Slevin’s suitcase (Slevin says, ‘it was heavy’) or his watch, which looked fancy (the mugger asked Slevin for the time). Slevin changes the subject by getting her to tell him her name. She asks where Nick is, and Slevin says he hasn’t showed up yet; he was supposed to meet Slevin at the apartment. The door was unlocked, so he let himself in.
The phone rings, and Slevin answers it, but the caller hangs up. Lindsey quickly dials call return, then claims she has a wrong number and tells Slevin the call came from the Hotel Cheval. Now that she knows who the man called, she says it’s time to find out who called him. She begins to quote Columbo (to Slevin’s amusement) to explain her ‘detective work.’ She places another call and gets the same hotel. Lindsey thinks that Nick is in trouble, and the mysterious caller, calling the hotel and the hotel calling him back, might be a clue.
Suddenly Lindsey announces she has to stop by work and rushes out of the apartment, but having forgotten the cup of sugar she came to borrow, hurries back in, just as Slevin had opened the towel to remove it, giving her a square look at what it was covering.
After Lindsey leaves, Slevin returns to the bathroom. Another knock sounds at the door. Thinking Lindsey is returning again, Slevin quickly opens the door… but in tromp two men named Elvis and Sloe, grunts in the employ of a man they only refer to as ‘The Boss.’ Sloe (Mykelti Williamson) is a burly man with big buck teeth, and a bit slow (his name being a clue). Elvis (Dorian Missick) is smaller but wiry, and a smooth fast-talker. Sloe and Elvis tell Slevin that they are there to pick up Nick and take him to The Boss. Slevin tries to protest that he isn’t Nick, but of course, they don’t listen– he is in the apartment just at the time they were sent there, so naturally they are assuming he is Nick, and no matter what he protests, they have to bring him to see The Boss, because it’s his orders. Slevin, seemingly unafraid, gets smart with Elvis, who shows he is no pushover with a few stiff punches. They load Slevin into their car, still clad only in the bath towel, and bring him to the penthouse of The Boss (Morgan Freeman).
The Boss lives in the penthouse of an exclusive building, and is well-guarded. He turns out to be the leader of an organized crime ring. Slevin still seems unafraid and the opening conversation turns into a verbal cat-and-mouse (I bet it was that mouth that gave you that nose, The Boss remarks). Finally cutting to the chase, The Boss reveals that Nick, as they all believe Slevin to be, owes him $96,000 in gambling debt. To get out of this debt, he has to do The Boss a favor… kill the son of a rival crime boss known as The Rabbi (Sir Ben Kingsley). The Rabbi actually is also an ordained rabbi, and his son, Yitzchok (Michael Rubenfeld), is known as ‘The Fairy’ because he is gay. This is in retaliation for the killing of The Boss’ son; the Boss blames The Rabbi.
As Slevin is escorted out by Sloe and Elvis to be returned to his apartment, The Boss begins speaking to a man, who apparently masterminded the whole affair– it’s ‘Smith.’ The Boss is puzzled because he hired Smith to kill someone, and Smith had Slevin (still assumed to be Nick Fisher) brought in to do it. Smith, shown to be a seasoned professional assassin, says he will indeed kill somebody.
As Slevin is escorted out of the building into the car, two men hiding inside a vehicle disguised as a plumbing truck take a snapshot and one tells the other that they need to call someone named Brikowski. A new face is in town.
Slevin goes back into Nick’s apartment. Lindsey shows up, planning to take him to the Hotel Cheval. Nick still hasn’t shown, and Lindsey has a friend who works at the hotel and can find out for them who placed the call to the apartment, from there. She notes Slevin looking intently at the newspaper he’d picked up– on the front page is a headline about Slim Hopkins being missing, which the newspaper notes is ironic because Hopkins is thought to be behind several mysterious disappearances of other people. Slevin tells Lindsey he ‘met’ Slim, and that he was dead. Lindsey says maybe it’s time Slevin tells her why he’s still wearing only the bath towel.
Lindsey hears her phone in her apartment ringing, and she rushes to answer it, as it may be her friend from the hotel. Slevin starts to get dressed while waiting for her. A knock sounds at the door, and he goes to answer, finding two Hasidic-looking men there, saying that Schlomo wants to see him. Trying to explain that he knows nobody named Schlomo, Slevin only ends up with another punch in his guts. These two thugs are Saul (Corey Stall), who does all the talking, and a Mute man (Rami Posner) who Saul hints can speak, but simply does not; especially to people he doesn’t know.
As he is driven to see this Schlomo– The Rabbi– he notes he’s being driven back to the Boss’ building, but Saul explains that the Rabbi lives in a building right across the street. Once, The Boss and The Rabbi were partners and even close friends, but one day they suddenly turned on one another and tried to kill each other, and ever since, neither has ever left the safety of their respective penthouses.
The conversation between Slevin and The Rabbi proves to be another game of verbal cat-and-mouse, Slevin unafraid and talking back to The Rabbi. The Rabbi finally tells Slevin that he (they also believe Slevin is Nick Fisher, despite his protests) owes him (the Rabbi) $33,000. The Rabbi gives him 48 hours to raise it by any means necessary. Saul will watch over Slevin. Slevin, seemingly just trying to further provoke the Rabbi, comments on not being frisked before being placed in front of the Rabbi. The Rabbi reveals he had a shotgun at the ready under the table.
After Slevin is escorted out, The Rabbi begins telling someone unseen that he’s made half of a pre-arranged payment to the person’s account in the Cayman Islands, and the other half will be paid when ‘their old friend’ is in the ground. Coming into view is… Smith. The Rabbi asks Smith what is up with Slevin (still thought to be Fisher); Smith simply says that ‘the kid’ and he have ‘some unfinished business.’
But as Smith begins to leave, The Rabbi suddenly stops him by saying that he has developed a talent for knowing when someone is lying; it is what has kept him alive for many years. He knows that Slevin was not lying when he said he wasn’t Nick Fisher. Smith simply (and cryptically) says that he knows that Slevin is not Fisher, as he continues on his way out.
Back in Fisher’s apartment, Lindsey is telling Slevin that she’s learned that the call to Nick at the apartment came from room 1009 at the Hotel, and that’s it’s registered to man named Smith (Lindsey sees through the name without any trouble). She took the elevator to the tenth floor and Smith walked out of his room, so Lindsey pretended to be walking to the elevator instead of coming out of it, and rode down with him. Pretending to be talking to someone on her cell phone, she leaned across the car to press a button, and carefully used her phone to take a digital photo of Smith, and he didn’t notice. She shows Slevin the photo, and Slevin says he doesn’t know the man. Lindsey says that Smith hailed a cab, and she followed him from a short distance; he went into a luxury building downtown and Lindsey waited outside for an hour, before who should exit the building but… Slevin, flanked by two Hasidic Jews.
Slevin tells Lindsey the whole story with The Boss and The Rabbi, and the double pickle he is in with the two of them; to say nothing of being shadowed by this mysterious Smith who Slevin doesn’t know… and to top it off, he isn’t Nick Fisher, and the real Nick Fisher is nowhere to be found. Lindsey is curious at how calm and unruffled Slevin is throughout all of what’s transpired. Slevin explains that he has ataraxia; a psychological condition that causes him to never feel worry or overwhelming nervousness. Slevin tells Lindsey he has to give The Boss his answer on whether to do the job The Boss wants him to do.
Cut to the Boss’ penthouse where Slevin tells The Boss he will do the job. Slevin says he will need a week, but The Boss says he has three days. When Slevin tries to warn The Boss about a move in a chess game he’s playing with Elvis, The Boss notes that Slevin knows how to play, and tells him that if he wins a game against The Boss, he’ll have his week.
As they play, The Boss asks Slevin about his plan for carrying out the hit on Yitzchok (the camera shows The Boss’ hand as he moves a piece, and his pinky ring). Slevin appears unconcerned, and The Boss warns him that Yitzchok has ‘shadows.’ A flashback of The Boss playing a game of chess with Smith, shows Smith explaining that Yitzchok is bodyguarded constantly by Israeli men who served in the elite Mossad division of the Israeli military. The Boss tells Slevin about them: they live in an apartment next door to Yitzchok, who wears a Star of David around his neck with a secret transmission device hidden in it– a panic button that will summon these shadowing bodyguards in an instant like an emergency alarm. Through another flashback of The Boss’ chess game with Smith, it’s explained that the response time is three to five seconds, meaning Slevin has to do the hit when Yitzchok would least expect it, in his apartment. The Boss tells Slevin that since he’s not likely to get in the front door, to use the back door– back in the flashbacks of The Boss and Smith, is a part Slevin does not become privy to. Smith plans that after Slevin kills Yitzchok, Smith will kill Slevin, place the gun in Yitzchok’s hand to get his prints on it, fire a shot so Yitzchok will have powder burns, and the scene will appear like two gay lovers committing double suicide because of anti-gay persecution. The Boss is delighted at Smith’s seemingly well-thought-out plan for killing Yitzchok.
The Boss defeats Slevin in their chess game and tells him he has three days. The Boss excuses himself and Smith walks into the Penthouse, and for the first time, Slevin looks deeply concerned.
As Sloe and Elvis bring Slevin back to their car to drive him back ‘home,’ they are watched by the same mysterious men who’d photographed them before. They’re wondering just who on Earth Slevin is, noting that he has unknown connections with both The Boss and The Rabbi. One man tells another to call Murphy and see if he has a match for the photo that Marty snapped.
A third enters the plumbing truck that serves as their surveillance vehicle, telling the first two that “the Kat” is in town; a seriously deadly assassin named Goodkat, who hasn’t done any work in New York for twenty years. The first man says he has to get down to the morgue.
As Slevin walks back into ‘his apartment,’ Lindsey comes rushing in, saying she’s figured everything out. She remembers Slevin telling her that Slim Hopkins worked for The Boss. Right now in the morgue is another bookie named Benny Begin, who worked for the Rabbi… Lindsey works as a coroner. A flashback shows her examining the body of Benny Begin. Entering the morgue is the bald man from the surveillance vehicle– Detective Brikowski (Stanley Tucci). Lindsey and Brikowski talk, and Brikowski reveals he knows Begin; he confides in her that twenty years ago, Begin was his bookie; Brikowski used to send his paychecks to Begin. The other two men in the morgue (Begin’s thugs) were killed by an exotic poison injected into them.
Lindsey explains to Slevin that she believes Nick set Slevin up to take the fall for him. Nick must have hired the mugger– he left Slevin’s suitcase and watch because he only wanted Slevin’s wallet, which contains his only ID. Begin and Hopkins were the only two people connected to The Boss and the Rabbi who knew what Nick looked like; he must have gotten them killed. Then he took off, left his apartment unlocked so Slevin could let himself in, and left him there holding the bag– his identity, and his debts to The Boss and The Rabbi. She is insanely puzzled at Slevin only musing that Nick has been painting him into corners since they were kids; he’s always been a better friend to Nick than Nick was to him. Lindsey announces she has to return to work (she’s been talking to Slevin while on lunch break) and starts to rush out… but then suddenly comes back inside and asks Slevin if he will go out to dinner with her.
That evening, Slevin and Lindsey are having dinner at a nice restaurant. Slevin reveals that he’s learned Yitzchok frequents the place. Lindsey is shocked, knowing that Slevin can’t simply approach him– but Slevin knows that when Yitzchok goes to use the bathroom, his bodyguards will not follow. That will allow Slevin the opportunity to go in with him, strike up a conversation, and maybe get a ‘date’ with him.
Brikowski is at the restaurant too, observing. talking with Marty through hidden microphones and earpieces, Brikowski tells Marty that he sees Yitzchok and his bodyguards in the middle of the restaurant, and Slevin not too far away, dining with a woman he can’t make out; he doesn’t recognize Lindsey because her back is to him. Brikowski asks if Murphy came up with anything on the photo of Slevin, and Marty says that Murphy hasn’t been able to find anyone who remembers just bumping into Slevin on the street– he’s like a ghost that simply appeared in town.
Yitzchok goes to use the men’s room, and Slevin follows. Brikowski starts to follow, alerting Yitzchok’s bodyguards who start to follow Brikowski. Brikowski finds that Slevin discretely locked the door behind him, though Marty assures Brikowski that Slevin wouldn’t do anything inside the bathroom. The bodyguards appear behind Brikowski, who flashes his badge and says he’s next in line for the bathroom.
Slevin and Lindsey are walking home from dinner and Slevin tells Lindsey that he simply up and asked Yitzchok for a date while they were in the men’s room together, and Yitzchok accepted. Slevin suddenly gets Lindsey to duck into the doorway of a store they’re passing; he is sure he is being tailed by police. Through a flashback, we see Slevin’s explanation to Lindsey of Brikowski confronting Slevin in the men’s room after Yitzchok walked out. Brikowski reveals he knows that Slevin is staying in Nick Fisher’s apartment, but he knows that Slevin is not Nick Fisher– Fisher spent eight years in prison for sexually molesting a 14-year-old girl, and the prison sent Brikowski a photo of Fisher, who doesn’t look like Slevin. Brikowski wants to know who Slevin is. Slevin says he’s just man whose dinner is getting cold.
Lindsey is amused at the craziness of everything going on around Slevin, saying she reminds him of James Bond. She wonders which Bond villain The Boss would be, running off a short list of actors who played villains in Bond movies. Slevin says The Boss would be Anthony Dawson, who played Blofeld in ‘From Russia with Love;’ this despite the fact that nobody ever saw Blofeld’s face in the movie.
Slevin and Lindsey arrive back at their apartments right across from one another. Slevin is about to enter his apartment, but suddenly walks into Lindsey’s apartment and they sleep together.
In the morning, Slevin goes to get some coffee to bring back for himself and Lindsey, passing by both Saul and Mute, and Elvis and Sloe, in their respective cars. As he passes a pay phone, the man talking on the phone grabs Slevin, identifying himself as police, and pushes Slevin into the plumbing truck they use for surveillance.
Brikowski tries to grill Slevin to talk about himself, who he is, what’s going on with him. Yet again Slevin gets smart-mouthed, even after he ends up getting punched in his stomach yet again. He does give Brikowski his full name, Slevin Kelevra, spelling out Kelevra for him. Brikowski is unable to get anything more out of him, and they toss him out of the truck.
Slevin arrives back at Lindsey’s with coffee for both of him. He appears very deeply troubled about something, hesitant to disturb Lindsey, who has drifted back to sleep. Finally he simply lays down beside her and they make out again before Lindsey has to dress and go to work.
Elvis and Sloe show up, bringing a suit Slevin needs to wear; the Boss wants him to ‘look nice’ for his date with Yitzchok. As they put him in their car and drive off, we see that behind their car was the vehicle driven by Saul and Mute– and they are both dead, two bullet holes in the windshield; each of the thugs dead from one of the bullets.
Slevin arrives early at Yitzchok’s apartment for their date. Yitzchok brings him in, inviting Slevin to fix himself a drink. He starts to make small talk with Slevin, who merely listens. Suddenly Slevin tells Yitzchok that someone is trying to kill him. When Yitzchok asks who, Slevin simply answers, ‘me,’ and guns Yitzchok down with a lightning draw of a silenced handgun.
As Slevin crouches beside the dying Yitzchok, Smith stealthily enters the apartment. Coming up behind Slevin, he raises his gun and cocks the hammer. Just as Slevin turns, Smith fires a shot– into Yitzchok, who had managed to draw his own gun when Slevin had turned away and was going to fire a return shot. Smith remarks, ‘that was close,’ as he hands Slevin a set of keys. Slevin hurries out of the apartment as Smith goes to the apartment wall and listens intently to voices speaking indistinctly on the other side.
Slevin hurries down to the building garage and opens an SUV, pulling out a large valise; one of the flaps ajar to show a timer of some sort. Smith turns Yitzchok over and notices the slight glow of a blue LED on his Star of David. Yitzchok had managed to hit his ‘panic button’ just before he died, meaning his bodyguards will be on the scene in just a few seconds.
Smith stands up, holding his gun and Slevin’s, both silenced. The door to the apartment is shown as Smith readies himself. The door opens, and Slevin comes through, pulling the valise. Smith is in fact, facing the apartment wall. The two Mossad bodyguards bust through the wall, built special to accommodate such a purpose, and run right into a hail of gunfire from Smith’s two guns. Smith spits in disdain as he looks at the dead bodyguards.
Slevin pulls in the oversized valise; inside is the body of the scruffy man Smith killed at the bus terminal. Slevin switches wristwatches with him before he and Smith leave the apartment. As they walk down the street together, an explosion tears out of the building– they left a bomb inside Yitzchok’s apartment.
We see an elevator ascending from a view above the car. Sparks and the crackle of electricity play across the roof of the car. We see the body of a dead man lying atop the car. The car arrives at its destination, and we see the feet and legs of a man exiting the car as Elvis and Sloe lay dead inside.
The man is Smith. He arrives at The Boss’ penthouse and stands before The Boss and his chief bodyguard. The Boss is not pleased. He berates Smith, saying he hired Smith to carry out a hit in such a way that it did not look like a professional hit. But with the Mossad guards gunned down and Yitzchok’s apartment bombed, the hit cannot help but look anything other than professional. Finally the Boss sighs and says that if the Rabbi wants war, the Boss will give him a war. Smith merely stands before The Boss, looking silently at him with a smug expression.
Slevin is arriving at The Rabbi’s penthouse across the street carrying a briefcase. Inside, Slevin says, is the money owed The Rabbi. The Rabbi is trying to reach Saul on the phone, even though it’s the Sabbath and they don’t answer the phone. As the Rabbi bends over the briefcase, Slevin stealthily takes out a blackjack and holds it behind him. The Rabbi opens the briefcase, revealing it is empty, and Slevin clubs him over the head with the blackjack, knocking The Rabbi cold. As he strikes, Slevin says, ‘Saul’s dead– they’re all dead,’ and a flashback to Saul and Mute sitting dead in their car shows a brief reflection of Smith in the windshield. He, not Elvis and Sloe, killed them.
The Rabbi wakes up, tied to a chair in what he realizes is The Boss’ penthouse. He starts to talk out loud, remembering how he’s spent twenty years behind windows of bulletproof glass, realizing he’s been a prisoner in his own home, and now noting he’s been delivered into The Boss’ hands by a boy. He congratulates The Boss for winning the long-standing feud between them– and he calls the Boss, ‘Anthony.’ Anthony Dawson, the name dropped by Slevin as he and Lindsey chatted about James Bond after their date, is The Boss’ real name.
But The Boss tells The Rabbi he can save his congratulations– he is tied to a chair back to back with The Rabbi. He tells The Rabbi they were both sold a bill of goods by the same salesman.
Quickly the Boss and The Rabbi fall into an argument. The Rabbi accuses The Boss of getting them both into the situation they’re both in, because he hired Goodkat to kill The Rabbi’s son. The Boss snaps back that The Rabbi killed his son, though The Rabbi denies this. The Boss sarcastically remarks that The Rabbi must not have had any hand in what happened back in 1984– the year their partnership ended. It’s revealed that The Boss was building enough influence that the balance of power between he and the Rabbi was becoming badly skewed in The Boss’ favor, and the Rabbi feared that he would cease being a partner to The Boss and end up a subordinate, or even, one day, excess baggage… so he arranged to have The Boss killed. The Boss’ wife died in the hit, but The Boss survived and managed to also save his son. But now his son was killed and The Boss holds The Rabbi responsible. But he says he’s evened the score. The Rabbi again tries to deny arranging the hit on The Boss’ son, but freezes mid-sentence. The Boss flashes an evil grin as he reveals what The Rabbi hasn’t learned yet– Yitzchok is dead. The Boss had him killed. The Rabbi starts to vow that he will get even with The Boss.
Slevin comes down the stairs into the room, and The Boss tries to speak to him. Slevin tells him that he’s already said he is not Nick Fisher. When The Boss asks who Nick Fisher is, Slevin says that Fisher WAS the answer to a question: how to get to two people who couldn’t be gotten to. He needed to get them to come to him. To do that, he needed an identity. Through a series of flashbacks with Slevin’s voiceover, it’s revealed that Smith killed The Boss’ bookkeeper, Slim Hopkins, and Slevin killed The Rabbi’s bookkeeper, Benny Begin. They took their gambling ledgers and compared them, looking for someone who owed both of them a lot of money; a down-on-his-luck lowlife that nobody would miss– that person was Nick Fisher. It’s shown that Fisher was the scruffy man killed by Smith at the bus terminal; another flashback shows Slevin switching wristwatches with Fisher after dumping his corpse in Yitzchok’s apartment. It’s safely ascertained that Fisher was leaving town to try and escape his debts when Smith killed him at the terminal.
Slevin then reveals that he, not The Rabbi, was the one who killed The Boss’ son. He executed a very professional looking hit so The Boss would suspect The Rabbi. Wanting revenge but not wanting to incite a full war, The Boss asked for an outside ‘specialist’ named Mr. Goodkat to handle it. The phone ringing at the hotel room is shown again, and we see that ‘Smith’ and Mr. Goodkat, the specialist, are in fact one and the same. The Boss asks Goodkat to kill Yitzchok in such a way that it does not look like a professional hit. Setting the hook, Goodkat asks to see a copy of Slim Hopkins’ ledger and points out the name Nick Fisher, a ‘loser’ deep in debt who can be forced to act as triggerman. This would make the killing look sloppy and amateur, so the Rabbi would not know The Boss was responsible, and so he wouldn’t go to war. The hotel room flashback also shows that Slevin’s broken nose came from a punch thrown by Goodkat himself to make the ‘mugging’ story believable. The Boss wrote down Fisher’s address and had Elvis and Sloe go to pick him up.
After this, Goodkat secretly visited The Rabbi and told him that The Boss hired Goodkat to kill Yitzchok. But, Goodkat says, his ‘friendship’ is for sale, and he would never kill the son of a ‘good friend.’ If The Rabbi doubled the fee that the Boss paid Goodkat, then Goodkat would kill The Boss instead. Then as a ‘favor’ from one ‘friend’ to another, Goodkat requests that The Rabbi collect on a debt owed to him… a flop in Benny’s book named Nick Fisher. Once all this was done, Slevin, posing as Fisher despite bumbling protests about not being him, had his ‘in’ with both The Boss and The Rabbi, and could come and go between them as he wished.
The Rabbi gets Slevin’s attention. Mouthing his words so The Boss won’t hear, The Rabbi offers to top whatever Slevin is being paid by whoever he is working for. At this point Slevin’s demeanor quickly changes to one of complete, ice-cold, calculating malice. He tells The Boss and The Rabbi that he is not working for anyone; he himself is the mastermind of all that has transpired, up to and including having both The Boss and The Rabbi as his prisoners. Naturally at this point the question is, just who Slevin really is.
The camera switches to Brikowski at the morgue, where Lindsey is examining the remains of a charred body. Brikowski hopes to identify the body through dental records, but Lindsey points out that the jaw was blown away and they wouldn’t be able to find the dentist who has the records. Brikowski is then called away by Marty, telling him of two more bodies. Brikowski notes that Lindsey seems deeply troubled. She lies about being okay, but she is looking at the watch on the corpse’s wrist– it’s Slevin’s (the one he planted on Fisher’s corpse). After Brikowski leaves, Goodkat shows up in the morgue, telling Lindsey that he has the same model of cell phone she does. He then takes her out with a precise gunshot to her heart.
Brikowski is seen in his car, when he gets a call from Murphy. Murphy starts telling him about a now-retired co-worker who has been visiting the precinct. During his last visit, he suddenly started staring in amazement at the photo Marty took of Slevin… more specifically, at the name, ‘Slevin Kelevra’ that Brikowski and Murphy had written on a small sticky note on the bottom of the photo. Murphy starts to explain why this retired co-worker was so surprised at the name.
The scene switches back and forth at this point between Slevin speaking to The Boss and The Rabbi, and Brikowski in his car, listening to Murphy over the phone. Voiceovers from Slevin and Murphy re-visit the ‘local legend’ in the racing circuit about a man named Max– the same Max who was shown being killed in the beginning of the movie. It’s revealed that Roth, the bookie who Max went to, laid Max’s bet off on both The Boss and The Rabbi, who’d both just set up shop in New York recently (flashback scenes from Max’s murder show The Boss and The Rabbi were both there via close-ups of what are shown to be The Boss’s ring and The Rabbi’s shotgun). The Boss and The Rabbi had found out that the racehorse Max bet on was doped up with performance-enhancing drugs, ensuring that whoever placed bets on the horse with either The Boss’s or the Rabbi’s bookies would win very big. Furious at the ‘fix’ and looking to set an example, they had Max, Roth, Max’s wife, Max’s son (Henry) and even the horse, all killed. Murphy then mentions that a specialist had to be brought in to kill young Henry because nobody else wanted to handle the job of executing so young a boy. The flashback of the gun being put to Henry’s head is shown, and then we see Henry turning around to look at the specialist: it’s Goodkat. Even Goodkat cannot bring himself to kill young Henry. He takes off his dark shades and looks at the boy for a long moment and slowly lowers his gun.
Back in The Boss’s office, both The Boss and The Rabbi stare at Slevin, completely dumbfounded. Slevin is Henry, Max’s son. Instead of killing him, Goodkat took Henry under his wing and raised him to manhood… and the two spent the last twenty years carefully planning and preparing for this moment… Henry’s exacting vengeance for the murders of his parents. With almost casual malice, Slevin brings out plastic bags and duct tape, asking them if they remember that part. He places the bags over the Boss and the Rabbi’s heads, tapes the bags tightly in place around their necks, and leaves them to suffocate as they left his father to suffocate. Both crime rings are wiped out, up to and including their very kingpins.
Back in Brikowski’s car, Murphy is explaining that the name of the racehorse that Max bet on, was Lucky Number SLEVIN.
Murphy muses about how Slevin came up with the name of a dead horse from 20 years ago, and had connections to two mob leaders that were also connected to that same horse. Neither he nor Brikowski have any leads or ideas, as Slevin has vanished. But as Murphy then starts to recite an afterthought about a new officer in the precinct office, Slevin is shown sitting up from hiding in the back seat of Brikowski’s car, having been waiting there some time. Murphy says that the new officer is Jewish, and that he recognizes the surname Kelevra as Hebrew, and that it means…
Before Murphy can finish the sentence, Slevin puts the silenced barrel of a gun to Brikowski’s head and says, ‘Bad Dog.’ (A reference to Goodkat — Good cat, bad dog). Another flashback of Max’s wife (Slevin’s mother) being killed, and a voiceover of Brikowski’s confiding in Lindsey that Begin had been his bookie 20 years ago, and how he often was big in gambling debt, shows that Brikowski was forced by The Boss and The Rabbi to act as triggerman for the hit on Slevin’s mother. The flashback to her murder now pans back from the triggerman to show Brikowski holding the shotgun.
Slevin rubs Brikowski out with a single gunshot and walks off into the darkness.
Cut to Slevin sitting in the same bus terminal where Fisher had been killed, waiting for a bus to leave New York City. Suddenly Lindsey, very much alive and well, is shown going up to him, where they embrace and kiss. Slevin had been waiting for Lindsey to go with him.
More flashbacks show Goodkat confronting Slevin as he was returning to Lindsey’s apartment with coffee, the morning after they’d slept together. Goodkat knew about Lindsey’s taking his picture on her phone, acted like he didn’t notice, and now was telling Slevin that she had to be killed. Slevin pretended to go along with Goodkat, but then explained everything to Lindsey, and prepared her to fake her own death. Lindsey is shown to have worn armor under her lab coat, with a pouch of blood from the blood bank strategically placed so her ‘death’ would look genuine.
Back at the terminal, Lindsey and Slevin are still locked in their embrace when they realize Goodkat is watching them. Slevin goes up to Goodkat, saying he didn’t think Goodkat would understand Slevin’s secretly arranging to save Lindsey’s life. Remembering how he once spared Slevin as a boy, Goodkat says he understood. But he chastises Slevin for not realizing that a professional assassin as seasoned as he, would find out. Goodkat gives Slevin Max’s watch. Their job finally done, Goodkat parts ways with Slevin and walks off, letting Slevin and Lindsey go to begin a new life together.
The movie closes with a flashback of young Henry in Goodkat’s car, looking at Max’s watch. He tells Goodkat he wants to go home, and Goodkat says neither of them is going home for a long time. He turns on the radio, and the song that starts to play is called ‘The Kansas City Shuffle…’ the catch-phrase Goodkat used regarding his various finesses.
|Tagline:||Wrong Time. Wrong Place. Wrong Number.|
|Cast:||Ben Kingsley, Bruce Willis, Corey Stoll, Danny Aiello, Dorian Missick, Jennifer Miller, Josh Hartnett, Kevin Chamberlin, Lucy Liu, Michael Rubenfeld, Morgan Freeman, Mykelti Williamson, Peter Outerbridge, Robert Forster, Sam Jaeger, Scott Gibson, Stanley Tucci|