The Merry Gentleman



Sundance Film Festival

PARK CITY -- God grants "The Merry Gentleman's" characters no rest in this complex psychological menage a trois. An impressive directorial debut by Michael Keaton, the film enthralled a Sundance audience and should stir others.

An edgy entertainment, the movie also remarkably has the feel-good warmth of an old-time Irish film.

Three lonely people make up the unlikely threesome. In this decidedly offbeat scenario, they are brought together by murder. All three are emotionally wounded -- a recovering alcoholic cop, an abused wife, a suicidal hit-man.

The yarn unspools with deliberate pace as Kate (Kelly Macdonald) catches a glimpse of the hitman, Frank (Keaton), as he poises to jump off a building, moments after sniping an innocent victim. Kelly's shriek knocks him backward to safety and, not surprisingly, he soon seeks her out. But they meet cute instead of deadly, and a most unlikely relationship blossoms. As the police investigation unfolds, one of the officers (Tom Bastounes) falls for Kelly.

Infusing the scenario with dollops of dark Hitchcockean humor, screenwriter Ron Lazzaretti weaves a perverse but embracing tale. With a flair for off-center dialogue and idiosyncratic moments, Lazzaretti has crafted a gripping scenario. Keaton confidently unspools the film's rich undercurrents with a deliberate hand and keen sense of psychological pacing.

The lead players are splendid, especially Macdonald as the kind-hearted lass whose goodness attracts relentless evil. As an investigator, Bastounes conveys the desperate fumblings of a man with no self-esteem but large decencies. As the suicidal murderer, Keaton's spare performance bespeaks an anguished man.

Under Keaton's inspired hand, the technical contributions are exemplary. Director of photography Chris Seager's telling framing is perfectly punctuated by the sure-handed pacing of editors Howard E. Smith and Grant Myers.

Southwater Pictures

Director: Michael Keaton
Screenwriter: Ron Lazzeretti
Producers: Tom Bastounes, Ron Lazzaeretti, Steven A. Jones
Co-producer: Christina Varotsis
Executive producer: Paul Duggan; Director of photography: Chris Seager; Production designer: Jennifer Dehghan; Editors: Howard E. Smith, Grant Myers; Music: Jonathan Sadoff, Sean Douglas; Costume designer: Susan Kaufmann.

Frank Logan: Michael Keaton; Kate Frazier: Kelly Macdonald; Michael: Bobby Cannavale: Victim 1: Kareem Bandealy; Diane: Darlene Hunt; Mr. Haag: Philip Earl Johnson.
No MPAA rating; running time 98 minutes.