Directed by Curtis Hanson ("L.A. Confidential") and written by Eric Roth ("The Insider", "Ali", "The Horse Whisperer"), "Lucky You" was filmed in early 2005, in the midst of a new wave of popularity (on top of the fact that the game was and still is hugely popular) for poker, which included various TV shows, like "Celebrity Poker Tournament". However, a surprising thing happened: while poker remained popular, the TV ratings for it started to fall off, and some of the shows started to be shifted to later time slots or not renewed at all.
"Lucky You", in the midst of a bit of a cool-off in poker popularity, sat and waited for its turn at the tables. When it finally got its chance earlier this year, the movie went up against "Spider-Man 3". It was like the poker equivalent of a guy off the street who's never played poker before going up against a Doyle Brunson or Johnny Chan.
The film focuses on Huck (Eric Bana), who, at the start of the movie, is trying to work a pawn shop owner, explaining to her why she should pay more for a camera that she already has three of. She tries to bluff him, and he calls her bluff. He doesn't get the price he wanted, but she throws in a bit extra for amusing her. From there, it's off to another night swimming with the sharks, hoping from table to table under the harsh lights of the casino, which he walks through as if he works there - which, in a way, he does.
Huck is trying anything he can think of in order to raise the buy-in fee for the World Series of Poker. However, there's some things up against him, mainly his father, L.C. (Robert Duvall), who he's always had a rocky relationship with and who taught him poker as a kid. L.C. is back in town early in the film, and Huck loses a possession to him that is important to both.
There's also the matter of singer Billie Offer (Drew Barrymore), who Huck finds himself falling for. But, between love for Billie and his lifelong love of poker: one of which isn't going to get the lucky hand. A hint would be the fact that their first "date" of sorts is at the poker tables, where he shows her the ways of the game.
"Lucky You" doesn't have the tension of a "Rounders" or the flair of any number of other gambling movies. Hanson and cinematographer Peter Deming just don't make the games particularly cinematic or dramatic. It is a low-key character piece/addiction drama (although without the grimness of the usual addiction drama; in this case, there's characters who are so addicted to betting, they bet one another they can't live in the casino bathroom for a month) that tries to make the characters as big a part of the movie as the games.
The character drama is subdued, but acted (Duvall and Bana are very good here, and Barrymore is probably the best she's been in recent memory in a sweet effort) and written well enough to be at least mildly engaging for most of the time, although the leisurely pace sometimes results in the movie almost feeling draggy. As is, it's never boring, but cutting it down by 10-15 minutes could have picked things up a bit. The relationship drama between the Bana and Barrymore characters is less engaging, only because the two don't have particularly great chemistry - it's just satisfactory. The two are nice together, but they never seem like an exact fit.
This isn't a movie that hasn't been done before, but the movie is aces when it comes to acting and writing, and that carries it past its familiarity and the few issues it has. "Lucky You" isn't going to win any awards, but it deserved more of a chance than it got.
VIDEO: "Lucky You" is presented by Warner Brothers in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation quality is perfectly respectable, as sharpness and detail mostly looked reasonably good - although a few minor instances of softness were spotted, the picture mostly looked crisp and detailed. Some minor artifacting was spotted, but no other issues were seen. Colors looked warm and rich, with no smearing or other faults.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.l presentation wasn't showy, but was generally fine. Audio quality was terrific, with clear dialogue and crisp music. Surround activity is limited to minor ambience and reinforcement of the music.
EXTRAS: "The Real Deal" is a featurette that discusses the rise in popularity of poker in and around 2003 (footage of the 2003 World Series of Poker with the filmmakers in the audience studying the action is shown), and the film's attempts - with the assistance of pros - to keep things accurate. "The Players at the Table" is another featurette that takes a look at the real pro poker players who are seen in the film. Finally, we get about 9 minutes of deleted scenes.
The Film B