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Awesome: 2.17%
Worth A Look: 28.26%
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Pretty Crappy43.48%
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6 reviews, 10 user ratings

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Lucky You
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by Peter Sobczynski

"A Far More Winning Hand Than Warners Would Have You Believe"
4 stars

As those of you who pay attention to such things no doubt already know, “Lucky You” has had a somewhat checkered history–although it was complete nearly two years ago, it has been sitting on a shelf at Warner Brothers ever since as a series of proposed opening dates were announced and quickly withdrawn amidst rumors of reshoots and recuts. Even if you weren’t aware of this, the fact that the studio has chosen to release it with only a minimum of publicity on the same weekend as the presumed behemoth “Spider-Man 3" suggests a certain lack of faith in the quality of the final product. However, you shouldn’t let the studio’s apparent disinterest keep you away for while it may not be the kind of crowd-pleasing blockbuster that they were presumably hoping for when they put it into production, it is an agreeably charming and quirky drama that delivers more entertainment bang for the buck than that web-slinger as far as I’m concerned.

Eric Bana stars as Huck Cheever, a man whose entire life revolves around the poker tables of the casinos of Las Vegas. He is a very good player, mind you, but too impulsive for his own good and while he is able to win a lot when he is focused, he tends to lose just as much when he lets his emotions get a hold of him. Alas, that happens more frequently than not, mostly because his estranged father, L.C. Cheever (Robert Duvall), is a world-renowned poker champ who haunts the same casinos while pulling in the big bucks by playing with careful precision and minimizing his risks. (As Huck angrily puts it to him at one point, “You play by the book–you might as well play on-line.”) One day, Huck meets aspiring lounge singer Billie (Drew Barrymore) and while it is plainly clear that she likes him from the get-go, he manages to screw that up for a whole by allowing his gambling obsession to get the better of him.

What drama there is in the film comes from the upcoming World Series of Poker championship, an event that L.C. has already won two times before in previous years. Obviously, Huck wants to win it for himself and show up the old man once and for all but finds himself the victim of an astonishing sequence of bad luck and worse decisions. He wins a tournament in which the prize is a seat in the competition but finds his victory overturned because of a mistake by a dealer’s mistake. Later, an obscenely rich fellow gambler (Charles Martin Smith) gives Huck the money needed to buy his way into the competition but he winds up losing it all to L.C. in a manner of minutes at a diner table. Huck even finds himself making a foolhardy bet with another degenerate gambler (Horatio Sanz) that he can run five miles and shoot 18 holes of golf in under three hours. Will Huck find a way to get into the World Series after all? If so, will he find himself enmeshed in a series of rounds in which all the players come up with impossibly high poker hands with every deal? Will Huck find himself surviving the tournament long enough to go up against L.C. in a round in which the emotional stakes are as high as the financial ones? Will Billie put aside her anger and reconcile with Huck? I wouldn’t dream of revealing any of these answers to these questions but if you answered “No” to any of them, you may as well just go and see “Spider-Man 3" this weekend with everyone else.

“Lucky You” was co-written and directed by Curtis Hanson and like most of his previous films–including such impressive offerings as“L.A. Confidential,” “Wonder Boys” and “8 Mile”–he is clearly not relying on simple plot machinations to keep thing chugging along. Instead, he is more interested in creating intriguing characters and a realistic sense of place for their stories and he achieves both here with the kind of quiet, low-key assurance that is an increasingly rare commodity in an industry that thrives on flash and glitz. The characters of Huck, Billie and L.C. may seem to be nothing more than one-not cliches on the surface–the happy-go-lucky misfit, the eternally cheerful girl who sets him right and the big bad wolf that needs to be defeated in the final reel–but Hanson and co-writer Eric Roth give them enough shadings so that they develop into convincing characters that can’t be seen in simple black-and-white terms and as a result, their relationships with each other wind up developing in unexpected ways that keep things humming at a point when most films might have gone straight to autopilot. There are also a number of scenes that are so fully developed and expertly written–I’m thinking of the opening sequence in which Huck endlessly haggles with a pawnshop owner (Phyllis Somerville) over the worth of a camera (“You work this hard at your day job?”), the cameo appearance by Robert Downey Jr. as a phone-in shrink, the first date between Huck and Billie and the diner confrontation between Huck and L.C.–that they could actually serve as stand-alone one-act plays.

The other saving grace of the film is that the three central roles have been perfectly cast. In previous roles, such as the lead assassin in “Munich” and the title character in “Hulk,” Eric Bana’s broody persona has never really made much of an impression on me but Hanson has figured out a way to bring him out of his shell while still maintaining a certain dark undercurrent and the result is the most engaging on-screen work that I have ever seen him done. On the other hand, I have always had a soft spot for Drew Barrymore–even after co-producing and starring in what may be the worst film ever made, “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle”–and the role of the eternally optimistic Billie is an ideal fit for her charmingly quirky persona. Check out the cheerful early scene in which Bana tries to teach her the ins and outs of poker and a later bit in which she is crushed after he lashes out at her for not helping him cheat at a stupid bet–if your heart doesn’t completely melt during these moments, you are most assuredly made of stone. As for Robert Duvall, the role of L.C. will probably not go down as one of his lasting creations but he is clearly having so much fun with it that it is doubtful that few will mind and when he does get a moment to show what he is truly capable of–such as a moment involving his explanation of his “$267,000 lesson”–the offhand power of the moment knocks you out.

I guess that in hindsight, I can understand why Warner Brothers seems so skittish towards “Lucky You”–they clearly gambled that Curtis Hanson would bring them an anonymous romance set amidst the once-hip world of high-stakes poker and chose to cash out when he wound up dealing them a film that doesn’t follow those rules. However, to take a more-than-respectable film aimed at the criminally underserved adult audience (even the soundtrack, featuring the like of Bruce Springsteen, George Jones and a new tune from Bob Dylan, skews to an older group) and toss it away on a weekend in which it is certain to be overlooked seems about as logical a gamble as hitting on 20 in blackjack. All I can hope is that what I have written has intrigued you sufficiently to inspire you to maybe give it a chance this weekend instead of the 800-lb spider next door. After all, that film will assuredly be around next week–I wish I could say the same for this one.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15605&reviewer=389
originally posted: 05/04/07 01:22:17
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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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