It's tempting to lay the odd pointlessness of The Merry Gentleman entirely on the curious fact that it is the directorial debut of Michael Keaton. It's to his credit, however, that Keaton was originally slated to simply fill the leading-man role of Frank Logan, a coincidentally(?) Batman-esque dark angel who works as a contract killer by night and a tailor by day (kicking ass, looking good, saying little). Screenwriter Ron Lazzeretti was originally intended to helm this dark, quiet film—which is stuck perpetually on the brink of becoming something—but was stricken with a burst appendix just in time for Keaton to gamely volunteer his untested services.

The heart of the story is a woman named Kate (Kelly Macdonald, Scottish accent intact), an overly polite Pollyanna whose borderline-childish sweetness is at odds with the strength of character it requires to escape a physically abusive marriage. Alone in wintry Chicago, her new home, she is fought over like a toy by virtually every man she meets, finding solace only in a stilted friendship with the near-mute, suicidally depressed Logan.

There are enough elements at play to sustain anticipatory interest throughout The Merry Gentleman—but when it ends, one's left empty handed and unsatisfied. Much like being alone in a strange city on Christmas, perhaps.

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