A hotshot poker player tries to win a tournament in Vegas, but is fighting a losing battle with his personal problems.A hotshot poker player tries to win a tournament in Vegas, but is fighting a losing battle with his personal problems.A hotshot poker player tries to win a tournament in Vegas, but is fighting a losing battle with his personal problems.
Eric Bana ("Munich") and Robert Duvall star as Huck and L.C. Cheever, two world-class poker players with many unresolved father/son issues between them. Huck resents the fact that he's had to live virtually all his adult life in the shadow of his famous father who, with his constant carousing, stealing and gambling, made life a living hell for Huck's mother virtually till the day she died. What Huck doesn't realize - and this is where Doctor Freud comes in - is that he is pretty much following in his father's footsteps both in his choice of profession and his relations with women. Meanwhile, L.C. hangs out around the casinos and coffee shops of the city trying to reconcile with his boy, while at the same time, doling out unasked-for advice about how the young man should be living his life both at and away from the poker table. Drew Barrymore completes the cast as Billie Offer, a young, morally upright ingénue from Bakersfield who has come to Sin City to begin her career as a singer and who winds up falling under the spell of the ethically-challenged Huck. Or could it be that the beatific Billie is really an angel of the Lord come to lead the iniquitous Huck out of this modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah?
The scenes between Bana and Barrymore are probably the best in the film and one wishes that more time would have been spent developing that relationship instead of sitting around the poker table. For whenever the story moves into the casino, the movie stops dead in its tracks, proving once again that poker, by its very nature, makes for one of the least compelling sports ever to be depicted on film. Anyone without a thorough working knowledge of the ins and outs of Texas Hold'em, in particular, is going to find himself lost in all the arcane trivia of the poker-playing scenes (which take up quite a large chunk of the movie's overall running time, I might add). Even worse is the fact that the father/son angle is so clichéd and hackneyed at this point that even actors of the caliber of Bana and Duvall (and they are both excellent) can't be expected to really pull it off.
There are some quality elements in "Lucky You." Director Curtis Hanson, who co-wrote the screenplay with Eric Roth, proves yet again - as he did in "LA Confidential" and "8 Mile" - that he knows how to extract the essence of a locale to build atmosphere and mood. Moreover, the interactions between Huck and Billie are often flavorful and intriguing (which is more than can be said for those between Huck and his dad). The performances are uniformly impressive, with Barrymore, in particular, showing a bit more range here than she has in most of her previous roles.
Hanson has populated his film with a number of real life poker playing celebrities, which may be of interest to the aficionados but won't mean much to the rest of us. Sad to say, but the lackluster "Lucky You" is unlikely to appeal to anyone not already passionate about professional poker - and unlikely to garner the sport itself many new fans.
- May 12, 2007