Lucky You may
be playing a weak hand, but that doesn't mean it's playing a losing game.
Plagued by numerous release delays and finally dumped into theaters (against
Spider-Man 3) nearly two years after it was completed, Curtis Hanson's low-key
and likable poker drama definitely has some problems, like a tepid romantic
subplot between costars Drew Barrymore and Eric Bana, but there are some
genuine pleasures to be found in this old-school character study.
known for his Oscar-nominated direction of L.A. Confidential, Hanson is a
staunch defender of Hollywood tradition, and he handles Lucky You with a
delicate, John Huston-like touch, trusting the strengths of a character-driven
screenplay (by Eric Roth) and the established appeal of a generally well-chosen
Bana plays Huck Cheever, the gambling son of a gambler, who's
itching to earn a seat in the World Series of Poker, where he'll play
high-stakes Texas Hold-'Em against the world's finest, including his
semi-estranged father L.C. (Robert Duvall), with whom Huck has had a turbulent
past relationship. They're both compulsive and highly skilled competitors, but
their gambling habits don't impress Billie Offer (Barrymore), a decent,
good-natured chanteuse who's just arrived in Las Vegas for her first
professional nightclub gig.
The acting is not
particularly inspired, with the exception of Robert Duvall, who plays L.C.
Cheever, the father of the protagonist. Duvall infuses his character with the
external toughness and inner conflicts that the role requires and is therefore
extremely successful in the process. There is a wide array of poker pros taking
part in this movie, but most of them have silent roles, the exceptions are
Sammy Farha and Jason Lester, who have a couple of lines each. The list of
celebrities includes among others Phil Helmut, Daniel Negreanu, Johnny Chan and
Doyle Brunson. I did not really understand why a couple of pros play characters
with different names, like Jennifer Harman, who plays Shannon Kincaid, or John
Hennigan as Ralph Kaczynski.
Overall, I think that the
idea of the movie was good, but the execution was deficient and the overall
quality suffered as a result. For a long time to come, poker movies are going
to be evaluated in terms of how they compare to Rounders, and in that sense,
this one comes up short. Poker players will probably get some enjoyment from
this production, but they should not expect much.
Short on reality and
thats all it had going for it - 6/10