High-concept and very low-impact, You Kill Me is almost quaint in its unassuming take on humanizing a hitman with life-crisis black humor, a gambit so old it’s got whiskers. Ben Kingsley, tending his sideline in bullet-headed gangsters, is Frank, alcoholic iceman for a faded Polish gang bested by a brash Irish mob in Buffalo’s turf wars. After botching a hit on a rival kingpin, he’s shipped to San Francisco to detox. He attends AA, works at prepping corpses in a funeral parlor, and falls for someone (Tea Leoni) as dryly sardonic as he is awkwardly direct.
A modest affair, You Kill Me offers Kingsley the chance to linger over what otherwise might be a side character, and lets director John Dahl revisit with a softer heart, the small scale and odd coupling of underworld and real world that good old The Last Seduction played for devilish castration fantasy. Here the love of a deadpan woman helps keep Frank on his talking-cure track after a toast at a wake ends in a blackout, and the pair loopily bond through his loving lessons in murder techniques (practiced on a melon).
You Kill Me has too plainspoken a manner to puff itself up into something more than it is, but it still sags with a weak script and diminishing expectations. Maybe the biggest treat in this little picture is Bill Pullman (a Seduction alum) as the family friend tasked with keeping an eye on Frank: as a corrupt realtor, he grimaces his way, crazy like a fox, to a dead-on level of skeezy smarm.