In Lucky You Eric Bana plays a professional card shark trying to raise enough money to compete in the World Series of Poker at a Las Vegas hotel. Things haven’t been going well for him. His father, poker legend LC Cheever (Robert Duvall) is back in town; he loses a ten thousand dollar bet; the girl of his dreams, lounge singer Billie (Drew Barrymore), dumps him when he steals money from her and he gets roughed up by some Vegas thugs. If it wasn’t for bad luck, he wouldn’t have no luck at all.
Fortune, however, favors the bold, especially in Hollywood, and he finds a way to come up with the money, play kissy face with Billie and get his private life in order all in one marathon two hour plus movie. It’s Cincinnati Kid-lite, a movie about the gritty sub-culture of Vegas gamblers that is completely without grit.
Director Curtis Hanson, best known as the helmer behind L.A. Confidential and 8 Mile, has succeeded in the past by creating interesting, richly textured worlds for his movies to inhabit. The former wouldn’t have been as effective if not for the lush, sexy and dangerous Los Angeles he created, and the latter’s grungy depiction of the wrong side of Detroit’s tracks added a great deal of flavor to that film. Both seemed authentic and were integral parts of those movies. Lucky You isn’t so fortunate to have such a well defined sense of place. Las Vegas is probably the least authentic city on the planet. Everything there is artifice, which should create interesting possibilities to for a director to place some real people in amongst the surreal surroundings. Instead Hanson’s Las Vegas is populated by characters we’ve seen before—wacky locals who’ll bet on anything, the down-on-his-luck gambler, and the supportive love interest.
Eric Bana has been given four shots at A-list stardom in the past few years—more than anyone else I can think of—and yet leaves virtually no impression on me as a viewer. I wanted to like him in The Hulk, but found his performance flat. I barely remember him in Troy even though he was second billed to Brad Pitt and in Munich he, once again, failed to impress. As Huck in Luck You, a gambling addicted poker player with deep personal issues, we should understand his compulsion. Instead he spouts a handful of catch-phrases which are suppose to shed light on his compulsion, but end up sounding more like excuses than explanations. Unfortunately Bana just isn’t strong enough or interesting enough an actor to carry this kind of material.
Barrymore is wasted in a supporting role that requires little more from her than to be the resilient and supportive girlfriend.
Third billed lead Robert Duvall, however, schools both these younger actors in how to walk through material like this with your dignity intact. His performance as L.C. Cheever is the highlight of the film.
Lucky You? Lucky you if you don’t have to sit through this.