Kevin Pollak's character in "Seven Times Lucky" appears to be trapped in a black hole; we don't know what era he thinks he is in...nor the movie for that matter. Pollack plays a con man/grifter named Harlan who is usually decked out in a bowl hat and suit that makes him look like something out of a Orson Welles film, but the film is set in present time, although everything looks so yesteryear.As the film opens, we see Harlan lose a bunch of money at the horse races, money of which that belongs to his boss (Babz Chula). To get it back, Harlan's unlikely young girlfriend and co-grifter Fiona (Liane Balaban from "New Waterford Girl") jumps in and helps Harlan grift the money. As the film goes along, more and more chaos brings itself to a head as more characters start piling up in the story and many double-crosses come over themselves.
The grift/con pictures are frequently out there, but only recently did I see "Criminal" with John C. Reilly and Diego Luna as they tried to scam a rare piece of legal tender in exhange for $750,000, and they ran into many of the problems like this film did. "Seven Times Lucky" fails in not giving us interesting characters and dialogue to keep the storyline moving. The players are gloomy and flat as opposed to sharp and focused (as they should be) and very rarely do they talk shop as per a David Mamet film; rather in bland and unflinching tones.
Pollack is an actor I've always liked, a gifted comedian with a sharp wit. His performance in the film is good yet somewhat slight; that said, he has a terrific line early in the film where he observes Fiona eating only curly fries for deserts and remarks "Why not eat something substantial -- have a cheese dog!" Liane Balaban (still looking a bit like Natalie Portman to my eyes) is an odd choice to play a young grifter; I guess the filmmakers wanted something unexpected to work the scene with Pollack's character, but it just comes off as only curious. Keep your eye out for James "Strickland" Tolkan (from the "Back to the Future" films) as well as B.C. local Babs Chula who is enjoyable to watch as Harlan's eccentric boss.The director, G.B. Yates, certainly has made a good looking film; with its moody colors and snowy textures to go along with the old noirish look and Pollack's stereotyped wardrobe. But there has to be more from this genre to make it something unique. We're not taken under any new narrative path here; rather it's just a lot of the typical. This is something that David Mamet can do in his sleep, and do well.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Vancouver Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Toronto Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.