This disappoints me to no end, as "Lucky You" is far from the bomb the studio's tactics would normally indicate. Actually, it's quite the opposite. This engaging Vegas-set drama proved to be one of the most pleasantly surprising trips to the theater I've had in a long time.
Eric Bana stars as Huck Cheever, a bottom-of-the-barrel poker player who wins big, but his pension for "blasting" causes him to lose even bigger.
His wild tendencies have caused some pretty rough times. He pawns off family jewelry to afford buy-ins and often takes bets to simply try to win money to pay back debts. Huck's living a neverending, vicious cycle.
Huck's life is made even darker by the ever-looming, large shadow cast by his estranged father, L.C. (Robert Duvall). The elder Cheever is a world-renowned, Mediterranean-hopping poker star who has won two World Series of Poker tournament championships.
The relationship between the two men is strained, to say the least. L.C. deserted his wife and son during Huck's adolescence, and despite Huck's steely "poker face," his eyes still tell of his inner heartache.
"Lucky You" serves three masters, two of which are seemingly contradictory and yet both are perfectly played at the same time.
The movie is brutally honest in its depiction of the slippery slope that is gambling addiction. Though there are a few, the storyline isn't played entirely for laughs, with many of Huck's early misfortunes reeking of appropriate desperation. And at the same time, "Lucky You" manages to capture the excitement of Texas Hold 'Em like few other movies have. As a poker player - or so I like to think of myself - I appreciated this.
"Lucky You" also is, and more peripherally, a romantic drama featuring Huck's budding relationship with wide-eyed, Vegas newbie Billie, played by a remarkably mature Drew Barrymore in a rare role that doesn't ask her to go back to high school or be courted by Adam Sandler. It's a refreshing turn.
I can't stress how unfortunate the handling of this movie is. At my screening, there were only two other people.
And while talking to them, I learned they were only there because "Spider-Man 3" was sold out - though my guess is, they probably enjoyed themselves.
And I'm betting you will, too. "Lucky You" is a short-stacked flick that's worth taking a gamble on. It's got a set of ace performances by Bana, Duvall and Barrymore, and is a full house of tension, atmosphere and character-driven drama. As entertainment goes, it's pretty solid.
Even if my puns aren't.
E-mail Cox at firstname.lastname@example.org.