Directed by Curtis Hanson. Starring Eric Bana, Drew Barrymore, Robert Duvall, Debra Messing, Horatio Sanz, Jean Smart, Saverio Guerra, Charles Martin Smith. (2007, PG-13, 124 min.)
REVIEWED By Josh Rosenblatt, Fri., May 11, 2007
In gambling movies, even the most dashing leading men lose as often as they win; matinee-idol looks are no defense against bad luck. Paul Newman took his tumbles in The Hustler, as did Steve McQueen in The Cincinnati Kid. Even new-school golden-boy Matt Damon found himself on the business end of some bad bets, and an actual beating or two, in Rounders. But in the history of gambling cinema, there has never been a loser quite like Huck Cheever (Bana). Born into a family of poker royalty and, by all accounts, blessed with an uncanny ability to read the cards and his fellow players, Cheever still manages to walk away from every game in Lucky You dead broke. He haunts the casinos of his native Las Vegas like a ghost, drifting from high-stakes tables to low-stakes tables and retreating back into the night when he inevitably lets his emotions get in the way of a perfectly good hand. Then off he goes to beg, borrow, or steal a new stake from a friend or a lover so he can start all over again. In between hands, he speaks in inspirational poker platitudes that would make a fortune-cookie distributor blush: “Sometimes nothing is enough,” he says after a particularly effective bluff, thereby destroying all the effort Donn Pearce put into writing Cool Hand Luke. The latest victim to get run over by Cheever’s deadly combination of good hair and kleptomania is Billie Offer (Barrymore), a newly transplanted chanteuse with more heart than talent and an ability to see through Cheever’s layers of malarkey to the real man inside. It’s hard to know exactly who exactly Offer believes that real man to be, as she speaks the arcane poker-as-metaphor-for-life language even more fluently than Cheever does. When she finally leaves him three-quarters of the way through the film, she says she’s merely “making a good fold,” a line so terrible it would be cause for laughter if it weren’t so typical of Hanson and co-writer Eric Roth’s screenplay. Lucky You is redeemed slightly by the presence of Duvall as Huck’s father, poker legend L.C. Cheever, who clearly spent more time being Huck’s teacher than his dad. Their inevitable face-off at the final table of the World Poker Championship has just enough Oedipal overtones to give the movie a little heft. Beyond that, however, all we get is an all-too-brief cameo by professional movie stealer Robert Downey Jr.