Fifteen years after the gritty New Jack City, Mario Van Peebles once again teams up with Wesley Snipes for this slick, stylized crime thriller.

Sadly, it’s hardly a high-octane, edge-of-your-seat gangster flick. More one for 16-year-old boys who listen to Eminem, lust after scantily clad models with large, er, assets, like Jodie Marsh and think The Fast And The Furious is up there with Citizen Kane.

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Snipes plays Lucky, who is anything but. The name is about as appropriate as calling Pavarotti ‘Slim’. He’s a former gangster who realises the error of his ways in the nick and is determined to go straight. He’s a good man - he even plays drums for a kids’ African dance band. Aww.

But back in New York, his buddy Sol (Noah Fleiss) persuades him to go to a drug deal so he can trade on his reputation – but when things go wrong, Lucky is dragged back into his former life searching for a way to get out.

On the run from the cops - bent and law-abiding - he is saddled with two suitcases of rigged cash and sassy stripper Angela (Jackie Quinones). He then runs into couple of seriously strange serial killers. I told you he wasn’t lucky.

So the basic premise of trying to turn over a new leaf sounds ok, yeah? It is – because we saw it done a million times better in Carlito’s Way. To quote another Pacino character, “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.” Sol is even a cheap imitation of Sean Penn’s wannabe tough guy in that movie, David. A cute touch though is giving Carlito star Luis Guzman a role – as a camper than Graham Norton porn baron.

Carlito is one of many rip-offs in this movie – there is a poor man’s Tarantino, Pulp Fiction-style series of different stories that all eventually interlock. Sadly, Hard Luck doesn’t manage to pull of this technique half as well.

It is a jumble of influences from other, far better flicks and as a whole it is confusing and irritating. As well as Lucky, we have a failed boxer and his girlfriend and a pair of serial killers.

These sadistic Saw-style murderers – the Sawtooth killers – are one of the few highlights in this movie and Cybill Shepherd is superb as the Doris Day-alike homemaker who rapes and tortures her poor victims – and films it. Ick.

Her partner in crime, young lover Chang (James Hiroyuki Liao), is equally entertaining. I hated myself for smiling at him dressed in leather and wearing a Nacho Libre Mexican wrestler mask while trying to whoop Wesley’s ass. The problem is they are introduced completely at random and we have no idea who they are or what the point is until much later on. They may be watchable but this is annoying.

I won’t bore you too much with the predictable hate turning to love relationship between Lucky and Angela – a stripper who wants to be a singer. Step up the Pussycat Doll rip-off. I told you teen boys would like this.

To his credit, Peebles keeps the action flowing quickly and there is the odd nice touch, although the split screen sequences are trying too hard to impress. Snipes puts in a credible performance and brings a likeability to what could be a bland, two-dimensional character.

Sadly, as a whole this movie isn’t a fraction as good as the movies that inspired it. But if you want a popcorn flick with big bangs and a decent amount of action you don’t have to think through, you could strike Lucky with this.

Reviewed on: 02 Mar 2007
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A former gangster's road to redemption is disrupted by drugs cash, bent cops, a sassy stripper and strange serial killers.
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Director: Mario Van Peebles

Writer: Larry Brand, Mario Van Peebles

Starring: Wesley Snipes, Cybill Shepherd, Jackie Quinones, Mario van Peebles, James Hiroyuki Liao, Kevin Thoms, Aubrey Dollar, Luis Guzman, Tom Kemp, Tony Hua, Noah Fleiss

Year: 2006

Runtime: 101 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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Carlito's Way