Film Spoilers and
|Film Title/Year and Plot Twist-Spoiler-Surprise Ending Description|
Leslie Murdered Secret Lover Hammond, and Was Vengefully Stabbed to Death by Hammond's Eurasian Widow
In the shocking opening of William Wyler's classic melodramatic film noir of murder and deceit, plantation owner's wife Leslie Crosbie (Bette Davis) shot neighbor Geoffrey Hammond (David Newell) six times as he staggered out of a tropical bungalow on the grounds of a Malayan rubber plantation.
Later when she described the killing, she implied that the murder was justifiable self-defense against a man intent on violating her. An incriminating letter surfaced and revealed her real motives (she was desperately in love with Hammond).
Leslie was blackmailed for $10,000 by Hammond's Eurasian widow (Gale Sondergaard) and a demand was made for a personal apology.
The ultimate revenge came in the film's conclusion, when she admitted to her long-suffering husband Robert (Herbert Marshall): "With all my heart, I still love the man I killed!" - and she was stabbed to death soon afterwards by the flash of a dagger in the hand of vengeful, retribution-seeking Mrs. Hammond - on a moonlit night in her dark tropical garden.
The Life of David Gale (2003)
Leukemia Victim and Fellow Activist Constance Made Her Death (Suicide?) Look Like Rape and Murder, to Convict Collaborator Professor David Gale of the Crime, For Publicity Purposes; The Incriminating Tape Showing Gale's True Involvement Was Discovered Too Late to Prevent His Execution
In this provocative and intense suspense-drama about a death row execution, the brutal rape/murder of anti-capital punishment Death Watch activist Constance Harraway (Laura Linney) was videotaped and ultimately revealed to be a framed set-up.
The leukemia-suffering victim had actually engaged in consensual sex with her friend David Gale (Kevin Spacey), sobbing convulsively during the actual act of rape. Her suicide was made to look like she was murdered by Gale. Her hands were tied and she was suffocated with a plastic bag over her head.
The plan was to frame title character: fellow activist and intellectual University of Austin philosophy professor David Gale in order to convict, imprison, and ultimately execute him on Death Row (with lethal injection) - he would be made to look like he was a martyr and innocent man in a highly publicized case - in order to prove his death-penalty abolition argument/cause and meet the challenge presented by the governor of Texas.
It was revealed that Gale was in on the crime (and he deliberately chose an incompetent defense attorney Braxton Belyeu (Leon Rippy), possibly involved in the deception) - told in stages as a flash-backed story in the few days before his execution to news magazine journalist Bitsey Bloom (Kate Winslet).
In the film's epilogue, an uncut version of the videotape (the film's third videotape) labeled "Off the Record" was sent to Bloom from Gale's lawyer with a letter ("...it would be the key to your freedom"). The tape was secretly concealed in a stuffed lamb (Gale's reminder of his son), which Bloom then watched by herself in an AV room. It showed that Harraway's death was not really a suicide, but that Gale had deliberately left his fingerprints on the plastic bag covering Harraway's head, as she already laid naked and dead on the kitchen floor. His unwarranted execution was designed to provide publicity for the cause of those protesting capital punishment.
The Lincoln Lawyer (2011)
Rich Real-Estate Playboy Louis Roulet Deliberately Set a Trap for His Sleazy Defense Lawyer Mick Haller In His Case of Assault and Rape. Roulet's Crime Was Linked to a Previous More Heinous Incident in Which Haller Had Sent an Innocent Man to San Quentin. Roulet Finally Received Justice. His Rich Socialite Mother Had Murdered Haller's Investigator. When She Pulled a Gun on Haller and Wounded Him, He Defensively Shot Back and Killed Her.
The title character of this noirish legal thriller (adapted from Michael Connelly's best-selling book) by director Brad Furman was sleazy, rakish, hustling defense attorney Mick Haller (Matthew McConaughey). The semi-corrupt Haller conducted LA-based business from the back-seat of his chauffeured black, aging Lincoln Continental (license plate - NTGUILTY). The vehicle was driven by Earl (Laurence Mason) - a former client working off his legal fees. Haller had lost his license for a DUI, but had his license returned 3 months earlier, but he still retained his way of doing business.
His shifty work, often abetted by lavish amounts of alcohol, was characterized by deal-making, seedy clients (Hell's Angels riding motorcycles in a threatening swarm, druggies, hookers and murderers), and helping to get criminals and other low-lifes freed. Throughout the film, Mick also interacted with his pretty ex-wife Maggie McPherson (Marisa Tomei), a prosecutor who felt he had represented too many "dirtbags." Mick remembered what his father had memorably told him: "There's no client as scary as an innocent man." He had a slight conscience, realizing that if he sent an innocent man to prison, "you're never gonna be able to live with yourself." He was also hounded by Detective Kurlen (Michael Pare) who asked him in an elevator, "How does someone like you sleep at night, with all the scum you represent?"
The film opened with a lengthy traveling shot through a courthouse's corridors as Mick spoke to his shady bail bondsmen Val (John Leguizamo) who suggested that the unethical lawyer take note of a potentially-lucrative case. The cocky, drawling shyster lawyer's decided to represent smirking, spoiled 32 year-old Beverly Hills playboy and real estate broker Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe). His client was supported with deep pockets by a rich, well-connected socialite real-estate mogul/mother Mary Windsor (Frances Fisher) and their family attorney Cecil Dobbs (Bob Gunton). It was a contested incident of attempted rape and assault-murder. The manipulative Roulet had deliberately chosen Mick to represent him, so that if any evidence was raised that implicated him in any further crimes, he would be protected because of attorney-client privilege and confidentiality rules.
Two versions of the crime were recreated and visualized:
As the investigation progressed, and included the death of Mick's own shaggy long-haired investigator Frank Levin (William H. Macy) - who was shot with Mick's own stolen antigue gun, it became clear that Roulet was guilty of the crime he was charged with. With veiled threats, Roulet also threatened Mick's eight year-old daughter Hayley (Mackenzie Aladjem), and he boldly admitted (off-the-record) killing a previous murder victim in a similar case.
A talkative courtroom trial proceeded, facing Haller against determined prosecutor Ted Minton (Josh Lucas) that included unreliable witnesses (e.g., jailhouse snitch DJ Corliss (Shea Whigham)). Charges were ultimately dismissed, but the testimony revealed numerous plot twists:
The Lion King (1994)
After the Death of His Father, Simba Grew Up and Returned to Defeat His Evil Uncle Scar and Become the New Lion King
Lion Prince Simba was born in Africa to father Mufasa (the king), thus making his Uncle Scar the second in line to the throne. Scar was jealously angry and envious, and plotted with three spotted hyenas (Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed) to kill Mufasa and Prince Simba, take over the Pride Lands, and make himself king.
During a wildebeest stampede caused by the hyenas, Mufasa was killed (while rescuing Simba) by Scar and the young cub was led to believe that his father's death was his fault. Young, guilty-feeling, and gullible Simba was encouraged to run away from the kingdom. After years of exile, he grew up. A now grown-up female lioness Nala, with whom he had fallen in love, failed to convince Simba to return home, overthrow usurper Scar (who had become king), and claim the kingdom as his own.
After Simba had a vision of Mufasa in a water reflection and then in a large cloud, he was advised to remember who he was, and to return to the kingdom. No longer able to run from his past, Simba came back to the Pride Lands ready to battle Scar for the throne. Their combat began at Pride Rock after Scar tauntingly accused Simba of murder - until Scar admitted, in barely a whisper, that he had killed Mufasa. After calling Scar a "murderer," Simba ordered his uncle from the land of Pride Rock to go into permanent exile when he begged for mercy ("Run away, Scar and never return"), but Scar remained and began fighting. Simba kicked him over the rocks to the hyenas, who attacked and killed Scar for his proposed betrayal ("It was the hyenas who are the real enemy. It was their fault, it was their idea").
The rains were restored to the dried-up Pride Lands, where Simba happily ruled the animal kingdom. Simba and Nala's newborn baby cub was presented to the other animals - thereby continuing the "Circle of Life."
Logan's Run (1976)
The Carousel Ceremony Was an After-30 Euthanasia Policy; Inhabitants of The Domed City Were Freed After It Was Discovered That There Was No 'Sanctuary'
Michael Anderson's sci-fi action-adventure presented a dystopic view of society in the year 2274, in which inhabitants lived a life of hedonism and pleasure in a domed city (run by a female-voiced super computer) until the crystal embedded in their left hand's palm blinked - a signal to attend a renewal Carousel ceremony (which was actually a death ceremony).
Logan 5 (Michael York), a cop-like Sandman entrusted with capturing Runners who attempted to escape, learned the truth about his society and its practice of after-30 euthanasia policies. He and Jessica 6 (Jenny Agutter) fled the city as fugitives to what they believed was 'Sanctuary.'
'Sanctuary' was not real - it turned out to be the overgrown ruins of the National Mall in Washington D.C. inhabited by an elderly white-bearded man (Peter Ustinov) surrounded by cats.
By film's end, they returned to their domed city where they freed the entire population into the outer world and destroyed the city.
Clare Quilty Was Also Lolita's Lover; Jealous and Angry Humbert Shot Quilty To Death; Married and Pregnant at Age 17, Lolita Was Planning to Move To Alaska, and an Imprisoned Humbert Died of a Heart Attack While Awaiting Trial
Stanley Kubrick's once-controversial film version of Vladimir Nabokov's 1955 novel began and ended with a connected prologue/epilogue in which literature professor and Humbert Humbert (James Mason), young Lolita's (Sue Lyon) stepfather, shot and murdered TV writer/pedophile Clare Quilty (Peter Sellers) after playing a mad game of ping-pong with him.
Humbert was insanely motivated to commit murder for Quilty's duplicity and his part in seducing, running off and abandoning Lolita - the ending shot was a second view of a Victorian, Gainsborough-type watercolor painting of an 18th century genteel young woman with a bullet hole through the face of the young girl - symbolic of the irrecoverably-marked life of Lolita.
Humbert had emptied all six rounds of his gun into the portrait, killing Quilty (off-screen) through the painting.
Lone Star (1996)
Lovers Sheriff Deeds and Teacher Cruz, Who Discovered They Were Half-Siblings, Decided to Keep Their Relationship A Secret
The film ended with the twist revelation that the loving couple of Texas' Rio County Sheriff Sam Deeds (Chris Cooper) and widowed, dedicated high school history teacher Pilar Cruz (Elizabeth Pena) were actually half-brother and sister.
When earlier they were teenaged high-school sweethearts (Tay Strathairn as young Sam and Vanessa Martinez as young Pilar), their relationship was forbidden not because of racial enmity or prejudice, but because Sam's father "Buddy" Deeds (Matthew McConaughey) - the previous Sheriff - and Pilar's mother Mercedes (Miriam Colon) had a secret love affair. [The film's major sub-plot revealed that the past corrupt and violent Sheriff Charlie Wade (Kris Kristofferson) was not killed by "Buddy," one of Wade's deputies at the time, after an altercation, but by Mayor Hollis Pogue (Clifton James).]
The film ended with Pilar and Sam sitting on the hood of a car at a deserted drive-in where they used to go as teenagers, when she delivered a shocking last line about digging up the past. Her words indicated that they would continue their semi-incestuous loving relationship: "All that other stuff, all that history? To hell with it, right? Forget the Alamo."
[Note: the film that played at the drive-in when they were teenagers hinted at Pilar's mixed parentage of Hispanic/Mexican and Anglo: Black Mama, White Mama (1972).]
Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977)
Theresa Was Brutally Raped and Murdered by One Night Stand Impotent Lover Gary, Not by Another Jealous and Possessive Lover Named Tony
Richard Brooks' sexually frank and cautionary adaptation of Judith Rossner's 1975 fictional best-seller descended into the carnal depths of New York's singles bars during the height of the sexual revolution.
It ended with an inevitable (although still shocking and chilling) fate for promiscuous, sexually-awakened, self-destructive Catholic-raised school teacher of deaf-mute children Theresa Dunn (Diane Keaton).
Theresa was a predatory, bar-hopping female cruiser searching for the perfect one-night-stand ("Mr. Goodbar") as a way to escape her dull and mundane life. She found herself threatened by possessive and jealous lover Tony (Richard Gere).
She ended up dead - a victim of casual sex and 'free love' in the late 70s. Her graphic and brutal murder was committed not by Tony, but by enraged one night-stand lover Gary White (Tom Berenger). She had picked Gary up at a bar on New Years' Eve, and she brought him home to her apartment. He turned out to be an unstable, closeted homosexual.
After they began making out on her bed, he claimed he couldn't get an erection, and she tried to be reassuring: "Maybe, maybe it's me. Whatever, it's not your fault. It happens." He responded: "Goddamn women, all you gotta do is lay there. Guys gotta do all the work. (She laughed) You think that's funny!" She joked further, not realizing that she was insulting his manhood: "Well, I think it's a helluva way to start the New Year." When she demanded that he leave, and asked: "What are you trying to prove?", he went ballistic: "Prove!? Prove what? I don't have to prove nothin'. You think I'm some kind of flamin' faggot. Goddamn it, I'm married to a girl that makes you look like s--t. She's down in Florida with a belly out to here with my kid. Mine! How's that for proof, you..."
A blue strobe light blinked on/off while he strangled, smothered and stabbed her, and also raped her after finding himself aroused.
Young "Looper" Hit-Man Joe Simmons Realized That If His Older Self Killed Sara, Her Child Cid (Revealed as a Future Mob Boss named the Rainmaker) Would Grow Up With Revenge and Hatred. To Change the Future, Young Joe Killed Himself, Causing the Disappearance of His Older Self Who Was About to Shoot Sara
In this mind-bending, intelligent sci-fi action thriller by talented writer-director Rian Johnson, 25 year-old Joe Simmons (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) lived in the year 2044 in the burned-out, socially-decayed, dystopic metropolis of Kansas City. He was a low-level, yet specialized hitman (or "looper") with fated fellow looper Seth Richards (Paul Dano), working for crime boss Abe (Jeff Daniels) in a Kansas syndicate. Abe had been sent back from the future by the mob to manage or run the loopers. The contract killer was hired to assassinate each of the mob's victims at a pre-arranged drop-off point, a remote corn/wheat field.
Although time travel was to be invented in 30 years, it was outlawed. It was appropriated and used by criminal gangsters, such as controlling mastermind mob boss Rainmaker from 30 years in the future (2074), to execute their enemies and leave no trace. The goal was the closing of every single loop. Targeted enemies to be eliminated were sent back to the present year of 2044, to be disposed of by their younger selves. This would be a foolproof and clean method to eliminate the loopers (or close the loop) - and leave no trace.
Because of his fancy and lucrative lifestyle and career, young hedonistic Joe was able to afford fine retro clothes, a classic red Miata, and a fancy hooker/showgirl Suzie (Piper Perabo). She worked as a can-can dancer at Abe's nightclub "La Belle Aurore." After a naked encounter together, she told him that their relationship didn't go further than "services rendered."
The main plot was that Joe found himself in a twisting situation where his next target was himself - 30 years older Old Joe (Bruce Willis). Old Joe had been living a good life in the future - in Shanghai, China with a wife (Xu Qing). He had traveled back in time - to find and kill the monstrous Rainmaker as a kid, to save his own loving wife from the future. [Her death was ordered by a man known only as "The Rainmaker."]
The younger Joe was in hiding from his own mob boss at the remote Kansas farmhouse of devoted single-mother Sara Rollins (Emily Blunt) with her son Cid (Pierce Gagnon). He suspected that Cid might be one of the children Old Joe thought was the Rainmaker, so he was there to protect Sara and her child.
The mind-bending conclusion revealed that Cid was the Rainmaker. Joe realized that if Old Joe killed Sara, Cid's destiny would be disastrous, filled with anger and hatred. He would grow up to become the evil, vengeful Rainmaker, creating a closed time loop of murder and revenge:
To remedy and avert the situation, younger Joe shot himself to death in the heart to erase Old Joe's life, just as he was about to shoot Cid's mother. Old Joe immediately disappeared in front of Sara.
Young Joe's Suicide
Old Joe Disappeared
The Lost Boys (1987)
Santa Carla's Head Vampire Was Not David But Video-Store Owner Max, Who Was Controlling a Motorcycle-Gang of Vampires ("The Lost Boys") Led by David; Max Was Killed by Wood Stake Impalement, Causing All the "Half-Vampires" to Revert to Their Human Selves; Grandpa Knew All Along That There Were Vampires in Santa Carla
Director Joel Schumacher's R-rated teen horror film was titled to reference "the lost boys" in J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan and Neverland stories, and began with the premise that Peter Pan was a vampire. The cleverly-marketed, influential production was a hybrid teen film and comedy horror film, evidenced by its tagline: "Sleep all day. Party all night. Never grow old. Never die. It's fun to be a vampire."
Shot in the northern California coastal town of Santa Cruz, it showcased the talents of many young stars of the late 80s, including Kiefer Sutherland, Jason Patric, Corey Haim, Jami Gertz, and Corey Feldman, and contained a pop music soundtrack. There were two direct-to-DVD sequels (with more sex and violence) in a trilogy of films: Lost Boys: The Tribe (2008) and Lost Boys: The Thirst (2010) - Corey Feldman was the only actor in the original film to return in both films.
The stylishly-filmed, over-the-top story opened with a family moving from Phoenix to the northern California coastal town of Santa Carla (fictional) with a beachfront boardwalk and amusement park. They joined up with the financially-strapped, single mom's eccentric father - Grandpa (Barnard Hughes), a taxidermist:
The first hints that things were awry in the town was that its welcoming entry sign was graffitied on the back with: "Murder Capital of the World." There were numerous "Missing Child" posters in town and the boardwalk area, and Grandpa mentioned: "There are some bad elements around here." An unknown entity killed a security guard in the boardwalk's parking lot and a couple in their car (after removing the car's top).
The members of the Emerson family soon found work or companionship:
And then Michael, to get close to Star, visited the gang's sea-cliff headquarters (a cave - the remnants of a sunken resort hotel under Hudson's Bluff that had fallen into a fault crack in the 1906 earthquake). David had Michael believing that the Chinese food they were consuming was actually made up of live maggots and worms. To be initiated into their secret society, he accepted the challenge to drink a bottle of blood, David's blood ("Drink some of this, Michael. Be one of us"). Sam knew immediately that his older brother Michael had become a "creature of the night...a goddamn s--t-sucking vampire" - not casting a reflection in a mirror. The Frog Brothers confirmed the diagnosis.
After Lucy was attacked at Max's house by his fierce, suspiciously-named dog Thorn ("a daytime protector, a guardian"), possibly an example of the "Hounds of Hell," Sam visited his Frog brother friends who stated: "Santa Carla has become a haven for the undead." From comic books, Sam realized that Michael was only a "half-vampire" because he had not sucked anyone's blood, and his condition could be reversed if the "head-vampire" was killed.
The major plot twists (or surprise revelations) were forthcoming:
The film ended with a punchline from Grandpa as he went to the refrigerator for a bottle of root-beer, casually revealing that he had always known about the vampires:
Michael (Jason Patric)
and Sam (Corey Haim)
Star (Jami Gertz) with David
David's Vampire self
Michael: A Half-Vampire
Death of David
Head Vampire Max
Reverting to Normal
Lost Highway (1997)
Fred Madison Was Telling Himself That He Had Killed Dick Laurent; His Hallucinations Were Justifications For His Murder of Both Dick Laurent and His Wife Renee
A mysterious voice at the opening of this intriguing, non-linear David Lynch film told wealthy LA tenor saxophonist jazz musician Fred Madison (Bill Pullman) cryptically over his home's intercom the meaningless statement at the time: "Dick Laurent is dead."
During part of the film, Fred's life was bizarrely intertwined with (or reborn as) another character, auto-mechanic Pete Dayton (Balthazar Getty) - a convicted murderer in a death-row cell, who was released (in his mind?) and experienced secret liaisons with Alice Wakefield (Patricia Arquette).
By the film's conclusion, Fred had killed porn mogul Dick Laurent (Robert Loggia), then told himself at his intercom callbox that Dick Laurent was, in fact, dead.
Enigmatically, it can be interpreted that the entire film was a subconscious, psychotic dream or imagined memory (or even a kind of purgatory or hell) for Fred as he sat on death-row - for actually killing his possibly unfaithful and beautiful wife Renee Madison (also Patricia Arquette), who he jealously thought was cheating on him with Mr. Eddy (aka Dick Laurent).
The dark side of his personality that killed his wife and shot Mr. Eddy dead was represented by the creepy, pasty-faced Mystery Man (Robert Blake).
The Lovely Bones (2009)
14 Year-Old Susie Salmon Was Murdered by Creepy Neighbor Mr. Harvey; In The Afterlife, She Helped to Find Retribution Against Harvey, Who Met His Own Death When A Magically-Released Icicle Fell On Him and Caused Him To Tumble to His Death
Producer/director Peter Jackson's gripping, difficult-to-view and emotional supernatural drama, with some references to Ghost (1990) and his own Heavenly Creatures (1994), was based upon Alice Sebold's 2002 best-selling novel (her second) of the same name. It told of a family tragedy that occurred in 1973 in Norristown, Pennsylvania, involving a perceptive 14 year-old daughter named Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan). The slightly-preachy, misfiring film was actually told from her perspective within the afterlife, as a dead and omniscient narrator and observer - symbolized by the opening scene of a young Susie peering into a snowglobe where a penguin was trapped: "There was a snow globe, and I remember the penguin who lived inside the globe. He was all alone in there, and I worried for him."
Abruptly finding herself narrating the film from the hereafter following the film's early plot revelation, she had just been viciously raped (off-screen) and murdered by her seemingly-harmless, suburbanite bachelor neighbor Mr. George Harvey (Academy Award nominee Stanley Tucci), a meticulous builder of dollhouses. Just before her murder, in a cautionary sequence, the adolescent, sexually-curious Susie was coming of age and just about to experience her first kiss next to her school locker, delivered by her older senior schoolmate crush Ray Singh (Reece Ritchie). But then Principal Caden (Thomas McCarthy) interrupted them - irate over the "obscene," anatomically-correct nude female that her classmate friend Ruth Connors (Carolyn Dando), a "strange, other-worldly girl" had sketched.
On her way home in the middle of a cornfield behind the school, the predatory pedophile and child molester had lured Susie through a trap door and down a ladder into an underground dugout or "clubhouse":
The film went on to portray how she dealt with understanding her own death in another afterlife dimension, the "in-between" located between heaven and Earth: "Life was leaving me. But I wasn't afraid...I was in the blue horizon, between heaven and Earth." It was visualized with imaginative CGI special effects that paid homage to What Dreams May Come (1998), as she watched her grieving family from above. She was counseled by her own afterlife guide-friend Holly Golightly (Nikki SooHoo), with a borrowed name - who advised her to proceed onward to Heaven, rather than looking back and not letting go: "You're not supposed to look back. You're supposed to keep going." Holly added: "This isn't heaven. You're not there yet." Susie admitted she wasn't ready for heaven, and had to go home first to seek retribution - to help provide clues that would solve her case and lead to the apprehension of her murderer: "But I wasn't looking beyond yet. I was still looking back."
Susie saw evidence of the killer's previous six female victims over many years, including:
14 year-old Susie, the latest victim in 1973 from Norristown Pennsylvania, saw that Harvey had stuffed her own body in a blood-soaked bag into a safe in his home's muddy basement. Susie's younger teenaged sister Lindsey (Rose McIver) - now grown up and the class of 1977-78's senior class valedictorian, was Harvey's next target when the need rose in him to kill again. The suspicious Lindsey, determined to find evidence to implicate her neighbor, snuck into Harvey's house in a highly-suspenseful scene. After kicking in a window in the basement and entering, she went upstairs where she found a notebook under the bedroom floorboard containing notations about the Salmon girl, a sketch of the location of the den in the cornfield and its dimensions, and a picture of Susie and a lock of her hair. She barely escaped (with the notebook) from Harvey who had returned home, after fleeing through an upstairs bedroom window and racing away. Harvey fled town, taking with him the heavy safe to dispose of it in the Connors' sinkhole dump site.
Time had passed, and Susie saw that her family was healing after her long absence, as she reflected:
The film concluded with a strange coda of divine retribution - in a family restaurant's parking lot, as Harvey spoke to a young girl smoking a cigarette and volunteered to give her a ride, a magical white glow caused a large icicle to fall from an overhead branch. It hit him on the shoulder, causing him to lose his balance on the ice and fall backwards over a cliff ledge to his death.
Susie finally was ready to enter Heaven, with her last voice-over, as her mother entered her bedroom and spoke the words: "I love you, Susie":
Lucky Number Slevin (2006)
Everything That Happened in the Film Was a Vengeful Setup, Planned by the Partner-Team of Henry/Slevin (Josh Harnett) and Hitman Smith/Mr. Goodkat (Bruce Willis). Henry/Slevin Deliberately Impersonated Indebted Gambler Nick Fisher to Set Their Plot in Motion, While Smith/Goodkat Was Simultaneously Hired by Two Opposing Crime-Lords - Their Targets. The Team of Slevin/Goodkat Were Seeking Revenge on The Two Rival Gangsters (and a Detective) Who Were Responsible for Murdering Henry's Parents 20 Years Earlier
This semi-hard-boiled, clever pulp thriller from director Paul McGuigan, a visually-stylistic caper-crime film basically, was filled with numerous convoluted twists and turns and secrets underlying the action, with a slightly cheating ending/revelation. The needlessly tangled and contrived, overly-complex plot was only revealed and explained much later in the proceedings. Its overall atmosphere was an earnest and witty, yet derivative, combination of Pulp Fiction (1994) and The Usual Suspects (1995).
The film really began in a non-descript, antiseptic waiting room of a depot, where traveler Nick Fisher (Sam Jaeger) was approached by an out-of-town wheelchair-bound stranger (Bruce Willis) who claimed his name was Smith. He said he was in town because of a "Kansas City Shuffle." He explained the hoodwink:
He said it had been over 20 years in the making, and had required a lot of planning and involved a lot of people. He related a backstory told with lengthy flashbacks: "It all starts with a horse" - at the Aqueduct Racetrack in New York in 1979. A horse named Lucky Number Slevin was injected by Doc (Nicholas Rice) with a drug to insure victory ("a sure thing"), and the news was relayed to crime kingpin Abe (Howard Jerome) from Doc's blonde sex partner Gloria (Janet Lane). "The fix is in at Aqueduct. 7 horse, tenth race." A restaurant waiter heard the fix - and called nephew Max (Scott Gibson) with information about the winning horse (Lucky Number Slevin). Max bet $20 grand on the drugged horse with bookie Roth (Danny Aiello), who was working for the Boss, and then went to the track to watch the 10th race. His young 7 year-old son Henry (Oliver Davis) remained in the parked car.
Unexpectedly with bad luck, the horse fell during the final stretch and Max lost the bet. In the parking lot when he returned there, his car was missing, and Max was grabbed by two thugs. Roth was murdered, Max was asphyxiated with a plastic bag, and his wife was also killed - the criminals didn't like another person betting on a fixed horserace. Smith said the story was the "inciting incident" or "the catalyst" - and then snapped the neck of Nick, the listener, required by the present-day scam. Nick's body was wheeled into the back of a truck: Smith: "You can't have a Kansas City Shuffle without a body."
Also in the present day (20 years later), Slevin Kelevra (Josh Hartnett) was visiting the NYC apartment of his alleged deadbeat, gambling 'friend' Nick Fisher. He was claiming he had suffered a broken nose after being mugged (and now had no proof of identity). He also alleged that he had just lost his job, found his apartment was condemned due to termites, and had broken up with his unfaithful girlfriend Kelly Perkins (Jennifer Miller). [Revelations: Both flashbacks of his mugging and cheating girlfriend didn't really happen. And 'Slevin' didn't know Nick at all, he only found his name in the stolen bookies' books - seen in the film's opening prologue.]
In a case of supposed mistaken identity, two black thugs arrived believing Slevin was debt-ridden Nick, owing $96K to the Boss, and they took him to their employer. The Boss lived in a stunning penthouse apartment, directly across the street from his despised rival, the Rabbi (or Schlomo), who had murdered his son. The Boss proposed canceling the debt in exchange for a small favor - the murder of Yitzchok the Fairy, the gay son of business rival-nemesis The Rabbi, within three days. The two criminals were engaged in lex talionis ("the law of retaliation").
Then after returning to Nick's apartment, unexpectedly, Slevin was again, with mistaken identity, seized by two of the Rabbi's Hasidic henchmen and taken to see the second crime lord. The Rabbi told him he had only 48 hours to pay back $33K. In addition, Smith/Goodkat was working as a hitman for both sides. He told the Rabbi he was gunning for Nick: "The kid and I have unfinished business."
Also helping Slevin was Nick's chirpy, chatty and inquisitive neighbor Lindsey (Lucy Liu), a morgue pathologist/coroner who was interested in sorting things out. Sleuthing, she took a cellphone picture of Smith in a hotel elevator.
All that was left was for the deadly setup to play out:
Greatest Movie Plot Twists, Spoilers and Surprise Endings
(alphabetical by film title)
Intro | A1 | A2 | B1 | B2 | B3 | B4 | B5 | C1 | C2 | C3 | D1 | D2 | D3 | E1 | E2 | F1 | F2 | G | H1 | H2 | H3 | I | J-K | L1 | L2
M1 | M2 | M3 | M4 | M5 | N | O | P1 | P2 | Q-R1 | R2 | S1 | S2 | S3 | S4 | S5 | S6 | T1 | T2 | T3 | U-V | W1 | W2 | W3 | X-Z