He must have lost a bet. What other conceivable explanation could there be for director Curtis Hanson's involvement in a production this pointless and appalling? This is the guy who gave us L.A. Confidential and Wonder Boys, for God's sake. At this point in his career, one would figure that Hanson's making a movie this thoroughly merit-free is almost a physical impossibility. One would be wrong.
Lucky You was probably intended as a gritty tale of the gambling life in the tradition of The Cincinnati Kid, but it's really more in the tradition of amateur theater. And saying even that makes me feel like apologizing to community thespians everywhere.
Eric Bana plays Huck Cheever, a Vegas hunk with a rep as a lady's man, despite the facts that he possesses all the charisma of a blackjack dealer and spends every waking moment obsessing about Texas Hold 'Em. He's a regular at every casino he enters, and his knowledge of the game is encyclopedic. There's just one problem: This character is a poorly written pinhead. He keeps scraping together a few bucks, outplaying everybody at the table, and amassing mountains of chips - only to bet aggressively until he's flat broke again. By the 15th or 16th time Bana's character does this, you just want to grab one of poker consultant Doyle Brunson's crutches and pummel the hero unconscious.
If Curtis Hanson is slumming here, imagine how out of place the legendary Robert Duvall seems. Especially in the one-dimensional role of Huck's poker-pro pop, and underneath what may well be the most regrettable toupée in movie history. When the pair winds up playing across from each other, you know their rocky relationship is supposed to create all kinds of tension. But their face-offs are about as exciting as watching someone have his taxes prepared.
Into this dramatic vacuum waltzes Drew Barrymore, and you can feel the audience hanging its last hopes on her to inject the film with an ounce of life or sense or wit. Within seconds she is romantically linked with Bana, so hope is kept alive. But then she sings. (Her character, Billie Offer, has traveled to Sin City to pursue a career as a chanteuse.) And then, with even ghastlier results, she speaks. "You know what I think?" she philosophizes while on a date with Bana. "I think everyone's just trying not to be lonely." So much for hope.
All that's left is a glacially slow run-up to the 2003 World Series of Poker. That's right. Warner Bros. has been holding this puppy close to its vest for some time now, and it's easy to see why. Card play may be curiously addictive on TV, but looking on as movie characters deal hand after hand in pretty much real time is indescribably dull. I think I actually saw Duvall aging.
Will Bana make it to the final round? Will he wind up playing against his old man? Will the two finally work things out? Will Barrymore croon a cringingly awful tune at a lounge called Dino's? Will anyone care one way or the other after sitting through two and a quarter hours of this bafflingly lifeless baloney?
Little in this world is certain, but I would put money on the likelihood that Lucky You is at this very moment being flagged by critics from coast to coast for their 2007 Ten Worst lists. This film isn't just bad. It's Gigli-bad. The dialogue alone is enough to guarantee a place in bad-movie history. The shocking thing is that it's terrible on so very many levels. Artistically, neither its director, screenwriter, cinematographer, editor nor stars were playing with anything close to a full deck.
How infinitely better it would have been for all involved had what happened in Vegas. in this case. really stayed in Vegas.