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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Ben Kingsley has played Gandhi and Lenin, Moses and Freddy the Frog. There's scarcely an accent he hasn't done. But in a new film "You Kill Me," he's got a new one.

Bob Mondello says he plays a mobster from Buffalo.

BOB MONDELLO: Frank is a hit man, and he has a problem.

(Soundbite of movie "You Kill Me")

Mr. BEN KINGSLEY (Actor): (As Frank Falenczyk) Hi. I'm Frank and I'm an alcoholic.

Unidentified Group: Hi Frank.

MONDELLO: Frank's mobster uncle has sent him to San Francisco to dry out, even gotten him a job in what you might call a related field. In between his AA meetings, this hit man, who's made a lot of corpses, now makes corpses look lifelike at a funeral parlor, which is what he's doing when he meets Laurel, a pretty media exec who's there for a relative's funeral, but who seems as unfazed by death as Frank is.

(Soundbite of movie "You Kill Me")

Mr. KINGSLEY: (As Frank) Hey, so maybe I'll see you soon?

Ms. TEA LEONI (Actress): (As Laurel Pearson) Geez, I hope not. Mom's still pretty frisky and I'm perfectly healthy.

Mr. KINGSLEY: (As Frank) Now, look. If nobody dies, maybe we could get coffee sometime.

MONDELLO: She's funny. He's deadpan - and that kind of works. But his 12-step program stresses honesty, so Frank takes Laurel to his AA meeting and comes clean about why his uncle sent him there, how alcohol was interfering with the job he'd always loved.

(Soundbite of movie "You Kill Me")

Mr. KINGSLEY: (As Frank) I want to do it again. I will do it again. But I know now the only way I'm ever going to get to do it again is if I stop drinking forever. Amen.

Mr. LUKE WILSON (Actor): (As Tom) Actually, it went better than you think. It did.

Ms. LEONI: (As Laurel) How do you know they won't call the police?

Mr. KINGSLEY: (As Frank) It's the Alcoholics Anonymous.

Mr. WILSON: (As Tom) Now I really feel that's what they had in mind when they came up with the name, but you never know.

Ms. LEONI: (As Laurel) How do you kill them?

Mr. KINGSLEY: (As Frank) Well, you just put it on a level with everything else, and you don't think about it.

Ms. LEONI: (As Laurel) That's deep, Frank. But I meant, literally, how you do it?

Mr. KINGSLEY: (As Frank) Guns, mostly.

Ms. LEONI: (As Laurel) I need a drink.

MONDELLO: Tone is what makes all of this work. Ben Kingsley's Frank is flat of voice and of manner, but never soulless. He's even principled in his way. What draws you to him is what draws Tea Leoni's Laurel. He shoots straight, as it were. He's got no guile, no hidden agendas. When he says he wants to get better for her and for his job, he means it. So of course, she roots for him. And the AA group's policy of not judging people means they support him, too, with a bit of blinking over that hit man job he loves so much. And of such moral gray areas, director John Dahl makes much laughter.

"You Kill Me" is a decidedly peculiar picture. Part hit man thriller, part romance, part 12-step melodrama, part black comedy and all deliciously dry, as its hero is drying out.

I'm Bob Mondello.

NORRIS: You'll find clips from "You Kill Me" and more covers of the week's movies at npr.org/movies.

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