I remember back when Michael Keaton was a stand-up comedian performing on David Letterman’s morning show. It’s been a long time and he’s come a long way. In his directorial debut, “The Merry Gentleman,” Keaton has crafted a moving and masterful character-driven piece of filmmaking, which is utterly haunting.
Set in Chicago, Keaton plays Frank Logan, a full-time tailor and a part-time, suicidal hit man. The part-time job has lost its appeal, so when he’s about to jump off a roof immediately after a hit, a young woman named Kate (Kelly MacDonald) spots him and screams. Startled, he falls backward, his life saved. Kate reports the incident to the police, and, soon, the investigating officer realizes she saw the killer.
The cop (Tom Bustounces) is smitten by the lovely Kate and, under the auspices of “working the case,” he persuades her to have dinner with him. Kate has recently escaped an abusive husband by moving to Chicago and is in no mood to get involved. But, then, Frank shows up on her doorstep under the auspices of “meeting friends in her building,” and she’s interested. Soon Frank and Kate establish a don’t-ask-don’t-tell type of relationship.
Anyway, she falls for the bad guy (unknowingly) and scraps the good guy (oh, the irony). But what is Frank’s true motivation for pursuing Kate? And when Kate’s husband (Bobby Cannavale) finds her in Chicago after having found Jesus at home, things get interesting.
“The Merry Gentleman” sounds like a thriller; it’s anything but. Instead, it’s an in-depth examination of the power of fear. It’s also about the people with whom we feel safest perhaps being the most dangerous. Then again, maybe not. Kate’s husband is also a cop. There are many confusing concepts whirling around in this thought-provoking film.
Keaton’s Frank is laconic and enigmatic, almost to the point of distraction. Almost. His performance is so powerfully reigned in, it manages to give incredible depth to his character. And it pitch-perfectly bounces off
MacDonald’s secretive Kate. I was impressed with her performance in “No Country For Old Men,” but I was disarmed by her brilliance in this movie.
“The Merry Gentleman” proves Keaton can be fantastic on both sides of the camera. He’s been out of sight as of late and I’m glad he’s back demonstrating great talent never dies.
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