When you need the assistance of vodka to clear the snow from your driveway, it’s time for some changes, but Buffalo resident Frank Falenczyk (Ben Kingsley) has the decision taken for him when he screws up at work. He’s an assassin for the Polish mob and misses a hit, resulting in a trip to San Francisco for supervised drying-out. His minder (a seriously rumpled Bill Pullman) sets him up with an apartment, a job in a mortuary, and makes sure he gets to AA meetings. It’s one day at a time for Frank, and falling for bereaved Laurel (Téa Leoni) actually complicates his plans – what he really wants to do is get back to what he does best: killing people.
Eight years ago when screenwriters Christopher Marcus and Stephen McFeely wrote this skewed black comedy, it presumably reeked less of ‘The Sopranos’ and ‘Six Feet Under’, yet the fact the dysfunctional hitman flick has almost become a sub-genre shouldn’t distract from the fun a splendid cast have with this one. We know from ‘Sexy Beast’ that Kingsley can do scary, but here he’s menacing, vulnerable, and deftly comic all at once. Director John Dahl, veteran of neo-noir goodies including ‘The Last Seduction’, underplays everything, which renders the gangland subplot even duller than need be, but also stops the action from getting too self-consciously wacky. Kingsley and Léoni thrive in the circumstances, turning a creaky jet-black comedy-thriller into an endearing left-field surprise.