Overlooked Gems: You Kill Me (2007)
Six months in, my favorite movie of the year so far has been Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I genuinely love this movie, and out of curiosity, looked up the writing team of Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely who had brought this comic book thriller to life to find out what else they had written. And I was delighted to discover that the list included one of the best dark-romantic-comedies in years, You Kill Me…the story of a hit-man whose alcoholism has gone so far he’s starting to lose his touch. Off he goes, thrown out of Buffalo and sent to San Francisco to dry out, get help, and finds love along the way.
A big part of why You Kill Me works are the brilliant performances by Ben Kingsley and Tea Leoni as the couple who are brilliant, yet surprising casting choices. Kingsley, as respected an actor as he may be, rarely has been considered a comic or romantic lead, yet he gives a subtle, smart performance as a worldly hit-man who is good at just one thing, and drinking is making it impossible to do that. It is especially good when he goes from subtle to chillingly (yet still funny), such as when he undresses down to his underwear to make a potential hit feel uncomfortable in his presence. If you’ve seen the brassy performance he gave in Sexy Beast, this follow-up was the perfect double feature.
And with Leoni, You Kill Me movie becomes a grown-up sexy romance which is truly funny, with the kind of rat-a-tat dialogue that made Hollywood couple William Powell and Myrna Loy such beloved examples of mature, witty romantic comedians. They have phenomenal chemistry, more than Leoni has had with any of her other male costars in films, and her ability to perfect witty, quick banter is so good, you’ll sit there delighting in listening to her speak (and she is equipped with some brilliant dialogue). One only needs to watch the montage when Kingsley teaches her the trade, to see how much chemistry the two have on screen.
Supporting the actors are Luke Wilson as Kingsley’s AA sponsor, Bill Pullman as a mobster/real estate agent, Philip Baker Hall as Kingsley’s Don, Marcus Thomas Baker’s second in command, and Dennis Farina as a rival -all of whom are perfect in their roles and provide balance and dark edge. You Kill Me looks great, showing the misery of endless winter in Buffalo, but also the drag a sunny world like San Francisco can be when you aren’t in the mood. And the movie has perfect pacing for a romantic comedy; leisurely yet never draggy, thanks to the direction of John Dahl who, after the disappointment of Rounders and Joy Ride should be doing more comedy (although his recent work on cable has allowed his this opportunity with Californication and The Americans).
But the reason You Kill Me is so good is undeniably the writing talent of Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely who are masters of combining clever premises with smart funny dialogue, and know how to write brilliantly for both men and women, without objectifying either sex, while still delighting in the battle of the sexes. And if the witty banter between Dark Widow and Captain America was a highlight of the brilliantly executed film, You Kill Me may be the perfect date movie.
Watch the You Kill Me Trailer