|Lucky You (2007)
Eric Bana, Drew Barrymore, Robert Duvall, Debra Messing
Director: Curtis Hanson
Considering that the whole Texas Hold ‘Em poker fad has gone a bit stale since its explosion at the turn of the century, you’d think Warner Brothers would have made the release of Curtis Hanson’s poker drama, “Lucky You,” a little more time sensitive. For one, the movie isn’t exactly your typical summer fare, and the fact that it’s opening against a juggernaut like “Spider-Man 3” doesn’t help its chances. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, the recent overexposure of the leisure sport means that you can switch on your television at just about any time of the day and watch a poker tournament for free. Of course, those tournaments aren’t directed by Curtis Hanson (who’s more than proven himself with films like “L.A. Confidential” and “Wonder Boys”), and though his latest feature doesn’t quite live up to his previous work, it’s still a decent option for anyone who consider themselves a diehard fan of the game.
Set during the 2003 World Series of Poker (the pinnacle of the sport’s popularity), “Lucky You” stars Eric Bana as Huck Cheever, a professional poker player with a reputation for letting his emotions get in the way of his skill at the table. He’s got a knack for turning pocket change into a small fortune, but he also never fails in pissing it all away with one brash move. His father, L.C. (Robert Duvall), is a poker legend – winning the World Series twice before – and he’s the only man Huck’s never beaten, so when the chance presents itself to go up against his old man in the upcoming tournament, he works every angle to put together the necessary buy-in, all while convincing a young lounge singer (Drew Barrymore) to take a chance on him.
As you can probably imagine, there’s not a whole lot to a story about a degenerate gambler who continuously loses his tournament fee by rashly betting it away, and though the film is being marketed as a date movie, it’s far from it. The real focus of “Lucky You” falls somewhere between the drama at the poker table and the relationship between father and son, making Barrymore’s presence almost entirely unnecessary. Good riddance, too. She has absolutely no chemistry with her co-star and butchers just about every scene she’s in. Here’s a tip: stick to romantic comedies like “50 First Dates” and “Music & Lyrics”. They’re much better suited for a woman of your, um, talents.
What makes “Lucky You” so mildly enjoyable, then, is the way in which Hanson carelessly bounces Huck around the world of gambling. Whether he’s begging for cash from his 1-900 scam artist friend (Robert Downey Jr.), accepting the help of a wealthy backer (Charles Martin Smith), or even taking up a crazy bet with a fellow gambler (Horatio Sanz), Huck’s colorful rolodex has far more promise than anything else in the script. The poker scenes are well shot (which is admirable, since the game is rarely exciting), and Bana dials in a respectable performance as the smooth-talking protagonist, but I definitely expected more from Hanson and writer Eric Roth (“Munich,” “Forrest Gump”). It’s not a complete disappointment, but if Warner Brothers wasn't going to give the film a fair chance, they should have just cut their losses and sent it straight to DVD. Sometimes a fold is the biggest win.