The Merry Gentleman (15)

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The Independent Culture

Michael Keaton's directorial debut is a low-key character study which just about survives its odd shifts of tone.

Kelly Macdonald plays Kate, a temp who's escaped from an abusive husband and settled for a lonesome Christmas in Chicago. Two encounters break up her solitude, the first with a police detective (Tom Bastounes), the second with a mysterious gent named Frank (Keaton, moodily underplaying), who, unbeknownst to her, is a professional hitman with suicidal tendencies. It all sounds rather dour, yet the social scenes and Kate's cute-meet with Frank (he finds her sprawled under a Christmas tree) strike a weirdly sentimental note reminiscent of Richard Curtis. The crime drama and the tentative romance are never quite properly introduced to each other, though the cast, Macdonald in particular, give an involving account of urban loneliness and endurance.