Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Merry Gentleman: Grade C

The Merry Gentleman (2008)
Michael Keaton, Kelly MacDonald, Tom Bastounes. Director Michael Keaton

Keaton is a Chicago hit man who chances to meet a young woman (MacDonald) who is hiding from an abusive husband. They develop a tenuous relationship that grows into friendship, although neither knows the other’s secret until a detective (Batounes) investigating one of the murders starts sniffing around. He questions the woman, who got a glimpse of the perp escaping and decides to ask her out, but he is coarse while she is polite and proper so they don’t hit it off. However, he finds out she is seeing Keaton and as much out of jealousy as professional duty, tails him for a while until his police instincts make him suspicious. He conveys his suspicions to the woman, who then becomes suspicious also. The end.

A movie can get away without a plot as long as the character studies are compelling, but in this case, we learn nothing about the characters, who are all stereotypes. The hit man shoots people, but we don’t see him in any context or have a clue about his motivation or background. Except for the fact that he is a cold blooded killer, he seems like a nice guy, albeit with a depressive streak. The woman has an extremely cute working class Scottish accent, but otherwise is a cipher. The hard-bitten detective is the best motivated character but that’s not saying much. So without plot, without character, what do you have? Some very good acting. Keaton especially gives a knockout performance, possibly his best ever. His supreme confidence nails the role. MacDonald is a rising star, for good reason, and newcomer Bastounes reminds me of Joe Mantegna. So this picture is worth seeing for the excellent acting and to see Keaton's very respectable debut as a director.

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