Curtis Hanson's Lucky You was positioned to capitalize on America's new love affair with poker, but it does so in an unusual way: It's not much different, pace-wise, from actually watching two hours of poker on ESPN. Which is pretty dull, if you aren't into poker. Hanson's script (which he co-wrote with Eric Roth) is to be commended for not going the predictable route for poker movies, where a royal flush beats four aces in every hand. (See: Casino Royale). But there's got to be a balance between extremes, because the mundane feels too mundane in this little but over-long film. Part of the film's boredom factor is traceable to the characters. Eric Bana is a charismatic actor who makes any role watchable, but his Huck Cheever is pretty hard to root for. That's not only because his methods are shady, but because he doesn't want anything other than to be a poker champion, a problematic limitation in a film like this. It's even less apparent what Huck's love interest, Billie Drew Barrymore, wants. She's basically just a cheery Pollyanna, saddled with the unfortunate responsibility of delivering the most awkward nuggets of Hanson and Roth's dialogue, much of which features poker as a stagy metaphor for life. Bana and Barrymore have no chemistry, so when they're butting heads over their drastically different life philosophies, they'd be better off just going their separate ways. Then there's Robert Duvall playing Huck's poker whiz father/general-purpose SOB, whose tough love is a lot closer to gleeful sadism. Duvall doesn't look a bit like Bana, and their relationship feels inauthentic. The film's most surprising problem is the clunky direction from the usually reliable Hanson. It's not clear who's supposed to be lucky in Lucky You, but it surely isn't the audience.
by Derek Armstrong review