Lucky You

Lucky You


Reviewed by: Stephen Carty

Despite being an extremely talented professional poker player, Huck Cheever (Eric Bana) never knows when to quit and is struggling to raise the £10,000 buy-in stake for the World Series of Professional Poker. Making things more complicated, he begins a romance with a naïve lounge singer (Drew Barrymore) and is forced to face unresolved issues with his gambling-legend father, LC (Robert Duvall).

By making a movie that revolves around the world of poker, respected director Curtis Hanson has taken a gamble himself. Aside from the fact that many viewers may simply write off a ‘poker movie’, Lucky You’s strange release delay (it finished filming 18 months before it was released) means that it had to go up against critic-proof, box-office destroying mega-blockbuster Spider-Man 3.

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On the other hand, given the current boom of poker on television and the net (how often have you stumbled across late-night poker on the telly?), its timing fits perfectly and will likely be lapped up by royal flush-hounds everywhere. In addition, though there’s a lot of time spent playing the game, these sequences manage to be understandable to non-players without being condescending to those who own their own chips.

In order to achieve this accuracy, Hanson pulled out all the stops and carried out a lot of research (which, here, means playing poker). Recreating the Bellagio’s floor, hiring legendary player Doyle Brunson as consultant and making sure the majority of extras were actual players, the end product is something that oozes credibility tough to fault for even the most cynical casino-frequenter.

However, for those that don’t know if three of a kind beats two pair, its worth noting that Lucky You is more than a one-dimensional poker movie with a side-order of melodrama. Cleverly dealing with choice-making, consequences and forgiveness, Hanson’s latest might have a nice line in obsession, but at its heart is the fractured father-son dynamic that will ring true to many siblings with complicated parental dynamics. Effectively played by both Bana and Duvall, the tension overshadows any straight draws or pocket pairs getting laid down.

If this still doesn’t float your boat, then there is a secondary – and much less involving – thread between Huck and Billie that fills the romantic quotient. Though Barrymore isn’t terrible she pales in comparison to Bana’s raw presence and Duvall’s subtle talent. In addition there’s also 18 holes of golf (one of the many zany side-bets), a nice soundtrack/score and a stand-out first scene involving a clever camera hustle for those who view poker as an excuse to snooze.

All in all, while it’ll probably be run-over at the box-office by unstoppable powerhouse Spider-man 3, Lucky You may be the best poker movie since John Dahl’s 1998 flick Rounders. Unlike many of Huck Cheever’s moves, it’s also a pretty safe bet.

Reviewed on: 12 Apr 2009
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Lucky You packshot
Two poker players find romance.
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Read more Lucky You reviews:

Andrew Robertson **

Director: Curtis Hanson

Writer: Eric Roth, Curtis Hanson

Starring: Eric Bana, Drew Barrymore, Horatio Sanz, Joey Kern, Debra Messing, Robert Downey Jr.

Year: 2007

Runtime: 124 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US


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