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STUDIO: Warner Bros.
RUNNING TIME: 123 Minutes
- Deleted Scenes
- The Players at the Table
- The Real Deal
"A hotshot poker ace finds love amidst the high stakes poker tables in Las Vegas, but will the allure of the big game and his legendary card sharp father override his heart and lead him into disarray and loss?"
Director: Curtis Hanson.
Attractive Meat: Eric Bana. Drew Barrymore. Robert DuVall. Debra Messing. Jean Smart.
Freakish Psuedo Celebs: Poker Players.
None of the Above: Horatio Sanz.
Let me preface this review by stating two things I am not fond of:
- The poker craze.
- Drew Barrymore.
So, with those things considered you may find the forthcoming negative review somewhat tainted but before writing me off understand that I also hated Curtis Hanson at one point. The day I saw The Hand that Rocks the Cradle to be explicit. I hated that movie so much that I not only expected LA Confidential to suck… I WANTED IT TO. Thankfully logic prevailed and Hanson forgot that he was an atrocity of flesh and bone and went on to make a few very solid films leading into this one. I went into Lucky You loving Eric Bana and being a fan of Curtis Hanson and those far outweighed my Barrymore disdain and poker indifference. What I’m saying is that I’m a better man than to allow my personal tastes affect a brilliant DVD review. Now onward…
"Jesus, you ain’t kidding! That is a chin Bob Z’Dar would be proud of!"
In essence, Lucky You is a small movie. A dash of The Color of Money stirred with some Tin Cup and mixed with a little small-time romance and father/son angst set against the backdrop of the professional poker circuit. Eschewing the glamour of the Vegas nighttime world, the film takes place in smoky, neutral poker rooms on the eve of the game’s coming out party before becoming a major television and cultural phenomenon.
Eric Bana is Huck Cheever, one heck of a poker player but given to foolish self-destructive impulses that set him back at the table, in his relationships, and in his development as a man. At odds with his his father (Robert Duvall) who also happens to be a professional gambler and his poker Kryptonite and always right around the corner from a bad bet or a beating from a local thug, he avoids happiness like some sort of nefarious creature lurking in the night.
Until he meets Billie Offer, played by Drew Barrymore. Or so you’d think, except Lucky You goes nowhere and is filled with moments that ring hollow and deliver absolutely no emotional or entertainment resonance.
Tony Stark had a Hulking erection.
We’ve seen that poker makes for engaging cinema thanks to remarkable films like Rounders, The Cincinnati Kid, and even Casino Royale.
Coupled with the game’s [it’s not a sport, despite ESPN’s wishes]
massive popularity you’d expect the combination of poker and Curtis
Hanson to be electric but when the card games take center stage it
never elevates the film or leads to memorable confrontations as in the
film mentioned above. Granted, Hanson’s film is a people film and not a
cards one but the lack of resonance in the personal aspect of the film
makes it a story without any real merit. Huck Cheever is a weak-willed
character and that’s often a great source for drama but even with Eric
Bana portraying him there’s never anything really interesting or
memorable about Huck to justify a film. He’s a good card player but
most of the time he’s coasting on his reputation. We see him enter a
casino with a small stack and then see him pony up to the big rollers
table having turned the stack into big dollars in between scenes. As a
result, we may know he’s a great player but we don’t see it. What we
see Huck do is treat his girlfriend like junk and get his ass handed to
him by his infinitely more cunning father.
That’s not how you make a great story.
"So I’m a liar, so what? You can cry wolf one, maybe two times… but who’s counting?"
Complicating matters is the fact that there love story at the center of the film is absolutely unbelievable and unremarkable. The first date between the characters results in him stealing cash from her wallet and it’s just hard to get behind a guy who would do that and a woman who would let him.
In fairness, there’s a decidely old school approach to the film, one which chooses dissolves to show the passage of time rather than fast cutting and fancy moves through the casino halls but to struggle to find reasons to like a film from the guy who made the standouts LA Confidential, Wonder Boys, and 8 Mile is a scary proposition as literally nothing about Lucky You comes across as all that remarkable. Even the presence of Robert Duvall doesn’t help and though his charisma is considerable it’s just not enough. His character’s a rat bastard too, and though there’s the inevitable moment between son and father where they address the rift between them, the build to that moment is nonexistent.
It’s as if this movie was whittled down from something much more dense into a generic film more befitting an IFC original [nothing against them of course], killing off most of the character development in the process. Bana is subdued here and never invests his character with the sufficient coolness or darkness to make Huck a good protagonist. Barrymore is fine but her character is such a pushover that it’s hard to give a damn about her and Duvall’s so easy to love even when he’s oily I couldn’t help but wish the film were about him.
"I won runner-up in the Lisa Marie Presley lookalike contest?"
Everything about Lucky You seems great on paper but on celluloid it’s sadly a total waste of time.
I made the mistake of looking at the special features on the DVD first and found them quite engaging, both in showcasing what poker was and what it became and in making the film seem rather intriguing. Curtis Hanson’s a fun guy to watch talk about his movies. He’s razor sharp and talented and there’s no denying that he’s a filmmaker to follow. Additionally, it’s cool to see poker professionals, especially the terrific Doyle Brunson, talking about their profession but the special features lose some of their luster in the presence of the subpar film. That said, if you like the movie you’ll be in hog heaven.
5.5 out of 10