Kate Frazier (Kelly Macdonald) has fled her abusive husband and begun a new, solitary life for herself in Chicago, where she fends off the romantic interest of a number of men, and the curiosity of a great many people who all want to know how she received her black eye. One night, leaving the office, she sees a man about to jump from a building roof, and her scream startles him, breaking his suicidal trance. The man is Frank Logan (Michael Keaton), a contract killer. No longer interested in killing himself, he tracks down Kate, initially intending to kill her, since (though she doesn’t realize this), she saw him moments after a hit. He collapses with pneumonia before he can carry out his plan, and she helps him to the hospital, whereupon a most unlikely relationship begins to bloom between two wounded people.
Since a bit chunk of this film takes place around Christmas, why don’t we count it among the Christmas films I’m reviewing just now (the other two being A Christmas Proposal and One Christmas, since nothing says Christmas quite like a suicidal hit man. The thing is, this is far and away the best of the three movies in question. Keaton is compelling as a man who finds great difficulty in expressing emotions, and yet the strength of the those emotions are visible in every movement of his eyes, every micro-tremor of his face. In shaping the performance, he is enormously helped by the director, who is none other than Keaton himself, making his directorial debut. He and DP Chris Seager have crafted a film that is strikingly beautiful without being showy, understated yet very powerful. Here’s hoping Keaton does more work behind the camera very soon.
I believe I mentioned that this is a handsome-looking film. The transfer emphasizes the point, as the film has been treated with real respect here. The film’s 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen ratio is preserved. The colours are deep and strong, with excellent blacks that are always well-defined and never murky. For a sterling example of just how good the film and the transfer look, check out the shot just after Keaton’s aborted suicide attempt, when he picks up his fallen cap and walks down a back lane. The compositions, the play of light and dark and snow, are lovingly rendered and a pleasure to look at.
The pattern with this film and disc seems to be one of low-key excellence. The same is true of the sound. The surround effects are far from being overbearing (nothing about this movie is), but they are just present enough to fill the sound, and immerse the viewer in the film’s world. There is a steady delivery of effects as well – there’s some distant traffic at one point that many another transfer would have ignored completely. Dialogue is clear and undistorted.
The Making of The Merry Gentleman: (15:52) Though ultimately a promotional piece, of course, this has a bit more meat to it, and is a bit more interesting than the usual.
The extras are skimpy, but that shouldn’t get in the way of one giving this a rental. Sure, there’s some familiar sentimentality here, but overall, a strong, understated little movie.