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Awesome: 2.17%
Worth A Look: 28.26%
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Pretty Crappy43.48%
Sucks: 6.52%

6 reviews, 10 user ratings

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Lucky You
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by Erik Childress

"The Film Ron Shelton Never Got To Make. And Youíll Wish He Did."
3 stars

I get to Las Vegas at least twice a year. Some canít understand how I can stay there for a week or more at a time. It may come as a surprise knowing the daily hustle, bustle and excess that the city represents, but itís a place I find a unique sense of peace. Others like to sit in the sun. Despite the nerving potential for fortunes to be won and lost, I find relaxation in the sportsbook watching one of my Chicago teams pay for my hotel or in the poker room matching wits with the locals. Movies made about the city are prone to focus on the sin part of its reputation, sometimes to mock it but usually to express the hopelessness that people inevitably find at the bottom of a bottle or their bank accounts. Thatís why Lucky You appeared to be a breath of fresh air; romance filtered through the logic and strategy of card playing and for a little while it looked to be on its way to replacing Rounders as the Hold Ďem film of choice for poker lovers. For every great scene thereís an underdeveloped turn and a river that just doesnít flow the way it should.

Huck Cheever (Eric Bana) is one of those ďprofessionalĒ gamblers, the kind that consider poker their actual job and scoff at anyone who doesnít believe it isnít work. In a wonderfully smooth opening scene, Huck talks his way into getting the money he needs to join a game by perfectly reading a pawn shop ownerís negotiation tactics. In no time heís turned a few hundred bucks into a few thousand, moving into bigger games around the poker room when L.C. (Robert Duvall) makes his presence at the table. The unspoken (and spoken) tension reveals them to be more than just rivals. Theyíre father and son, roaming the same battlefield after being estranged for years after L.C. left his mother and him. Their only connection is masked in the wedding ring worn by mom; a heirloom that the pair are continually winning and losing back to the other.

Another lady is about to enter Huckís life though when he meets Billie Offer (Drew Barrymore), the sister of an acquaintance (Debra Messing) who knows Huckís M.O. more than anyone in the games. Huck gives Billie a hands-on lesson in poker; a partner whose naivete to the sport saddles her with the worst poker face since Bill S. Preston Esq. revealed he had three aces. Sheís also not equipped to read Huck when he takes money from her purse in an attempt to bankroll a seat at the World Series of Poker. Itís just the first of many bumps in their clashing personalities. Billieís empathetic nature hates when anyone has to lose and Huckís obsessive chase to win it all donít make for the best table manners.

Unfortunately, it also doesnít make for the most compelling of romantic fables since the film keeps wanting to fold it in-between all the scenes of actual poker play. Mark my word, this film is dependent on how much you love to watch people making decisions over cards. As someone who can plunk myself down watching the ESPN coverage or celebrities getting chastised by poker experts, I was perfectly at home. Whatís curious about these scenes is the nearly complete absence of any tension or anticipation of the outcome that John Dahl (Rounders) and Norman Jewison (The Cincinnati Kid) achieved so well with narratives that preached cards as a lifestyle. Those with X-ray vision need not announce their powers since everyone in the room could call the final card in every hand as if the extended pauses are the filmís tell that youíre not going to be surprised.

Itís almost as if Hanson was trying to purport a monotony that existed in the old school poker rooms as opposed to the hang-on-every-move intrusion of the table cameras which, nevertheless, provides the ďbomb under the tableĒ mold of suspense popularized by Hitchcock. Thereís a reason the film is set in 2003. (No, its not because the film has been sitting on the shelf for that long. It was shot in í05.) This is the time when poker began to take on itís new life as a televised sport, five years after Rounders turned Texas Hold ĎEm into THE game for Joe Casual. Unless youíre a regular visitor, Vegas hasnít changed significantly since then save for the ad campaign trying to wrestle the city back into the arms of adults. Lucky You barely acknowledges its intentions for the í03 setting except in the climactic game where announcers reveal it as the first to feature installed cameras for the home viewer. Whatever connotation this aspect is meant to imply about the last vestiges of Vegas grinders like L.C. giving way to a new generation of hip, camera-ready online prodigies is lost in a screenplay that never finds itís footing.

Huckís go-for-broke attitude will remind those privy to the Ron Shelton canon of characters like Woody Harrelsonís Billy Hoyle from White Men Canít Jump and Costnerís Tin Cup McAvoy, but only in blueprint. When Huck is forced into a decathalon bet of mile jogging and golfing, youíd swear you were watching a scene straight out of a Shelton script. But Hanson still doesnít find the humor nor the fanatical necessity in Huckís motivations for going through with it which all just leads to another second grade chastising about bending the rules. Itís not enough of a capper to put Huck on the road to change and should have been the catalyst for him and the screenwriters that his relationship with Billie was not one worth chasing.

On the other hand, Roth and Hansonís script has enough really terrific scenes that Iím tempted to recommend it in pieces as a Vegas lover first and movie lover second. Robert Duvall can basically do no wrong in a role like this and heís so good in his interplay with Bana (especially during a lunchtime card duel) that it would have been a blessing to dump the romance angle entirely and focus squarely on the mending of these two schools of thought. The pawn shop prologue and another solid solo moment with a cameoing Robert Downey Jr. perfectly get to the underlying hope that Vegas romanticizes to dreamers and lowlifes alike. The Barrymore subplot is never as fully developed as any of these individual moments and a pair of habitual ďpropsĒ bettors feels lifted from one of the wackier episodes of NBCís Las Vegas. In the moment, Lucky You had enough charm and positivity to keep me in the game but as I walked away I felt the unusually hollow feel of having broken even on the whole experience.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15605&reviewer=198
originally posted: 05/04/07 00:00:00
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User Comments

12/28/17 Tom Eric Banavitch is an overrated actor and director. He’s useless. 1 stars
7/02/07 William Goss The detached nature of poker makes for unsatisfying drama. Metaphors, cliches run rampant. 2 stars
7/01/07 Jacqueline (C'mon, Tif) 1st time since NEVER BEEN KISSED, Drew almost let us forget she thinks her shit don't stink 4 stars
7/01/07 Lydia Helton At last, a movie that helps viewers understand "TexasHold'Em" (better than it entertains!) 3 stars
5/17/07 Sarah It was utterly excreble, so bad I couldn't believe anyone made it or released it. 1 stars
5/08/07 David Pollastrini Drew Barrymore is hot in this! 3 stars
5/08/07 Tiffany Losco boring, I like drew barrymore, but not in this movie. 3 stars
5/06/07 dana it was awsome HUk was so hot 5 stars
5/05/07 Chrissy Bana's a good actor (hello, Munich!), but I think Barrymore sucked any charisma he had 2 stars
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  04-May-2007 (PG-13)
  DVD: 18-Sep-2007



Directed by
  Curtis Hanson

Written by
  Eric Roth
  Curtis Hanson

  Eric Bana
  Drew Barrymore
  Robert Duvall
  Debra Messing

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