Back in the late '80s and early '90s, the Montana-born director John Dahl made a name for himself with a series of nifty, darkly comic neo-noirs bearing wonderfully hardboiled titles like Kill Me Again, Red Rock West, and The Last Seduction. The past decade has been less kind to Dahl, who's foundered with a series of bigger-budget studio assignments and only sporadically (as in 2001's Joy Ride) shown signs of his old B-movie mojo. Called You Kill Me, Dahl's latest has the outward appearance of a return to form but in fact may be the worst thing he's ever done—an inert, tone-deaf mélange of The Sopranos and Six Feet Under, about an alcoholic assassin (Ben Kingsley) in the New York Polish mafia who becomes a better man (and a better hit man) by joining AA and going to work in a San Francisco mortuary. The script supposedly kicked around Hollywood for years before attracting Sir Ben's interest, and its age shows in the torrent of rimshot-worthy gay and Polack jokes, the gay-but-not-gay-seeming AA sponsor (Luke Wilson), and the submissive love interest (Téa Leoni, a far cry from Dahl's usual steely dames) who doesn't mind that Kingsley's a killer as long as he's not, you know, gay.
Leoni helps Kingsley unload his sorrows
You Kill Me
Opens at Seven Gables and other theaters, Fri., July 6. Rated R. 92 minutes.