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Poker Movie Review: Lucky You

Poker Movie Review: Lucky You (2006)
by Daniel Johnson of

Curtis Hanson's Lucky You is a poker movie trying to accomplish a lot in its two hour and four minute running time.

First it's a story of a down-on-his-luck professional poker player named Huck Cheever, played by Eric Bana, who is trying to climb to the top of the poker world by winning the World Series of Poker.

Then it's also the love story between Bana's character Cheever and a Las Vegas lounge singer named Billie, played by Drew Barrymore. Thirdly, it's also about Cheever trying to reconnect with his overbearing and much more successful poker-player father, L.C. Cheever, played by the great Robert Duvall.

With so many story lines, the film was bound to become a tangled mess. While trying to unravel it you are bound to find some great things, but mostly the film tries to do too much. It is a good poker movie, in terms of the actual poker play, but it fails in its romantic endeavors and it simply isn't very funny. And for a romantic comedy to work, it usually is required to do one of those things.

Though, like I said earlier, the film does have bright points and I think if it would have stuck to one main story with one side plot, it could have worked fine. There are a couple of things to like in this film. For example, the poker scenes for the most part came off as very authentic and realistic. This is mostly due to the fact that the director, Hanson, used many famous poker pros as consultants and also used them in the film to add to the World Series of Poker atmosphere that he was trying to recreate.

The film takes place during the 2003 WSOP, when things in the poker world were starting to really change. He does a good job of portraying the poker and gambling culture by having cameos from the likes of Doyle Brunson, Sam Farha (who even had some great speaking lines), Jason Lester and John "World" Hennigan. He also used the propositional betting culture that most of these professionals actually partake in to add to the realism of the poker scenes.

For poker fans, there is a lot to admire about the movie, but for non poker fans or general film fans, there are too many flaws to ignore. And since this is a romantic comedy that is aimed at a significantly large female audience, most of the poker talk and poker playing may bore some and fly right over the heads of others.

Bana's character is definitely a fixer-upper. He's a compulsive gambler, who steals from Barrymore's character after their first night together and uses it to play poker. He of course loses. And she, of course, flips out. So why does she fall for him? Well, I guess she wanted to change him; turn him into a respectable guy. However, like Matt Damon's character in "Rounders", Huck never learns his lesson. He always gambles more money than he has and never plays it safe. Obviously it makes for a more exciting film, but unlike Damon's character in that legendary poker movie, Bana's Huck is not quite as likable and thus is harder for the audience to root for.

The romance between the two is very unrealistic in this way. He never really brings anything to the table (of the relationship that is). And we never really learn anything about Barrymore's character that gives us reason like her much either. All we know is she's kinda cute, but way too trusting and na´ve. Huck is obviously a degenerate, but she sticks by him anyway, to change him to the way she wants.

Duvall plays the old-time gambler, L.C., who has seen all the angles. He tries to teach his son life and poker lessons the hard way, by taking all his money. L.C. is the two-time WSOP champion and much more respected poker icon who, his son Huck envies in some ways, but never learns enough to resemble him. In fact, Huck hates his father for leaving his mother years ago and has never forgiven him. Huck tries to prove himself to his father at the poker table only to fail time and time again.

I won't give the ending away of course, but let's just say it doesn't make too much sense considering all that has lead up to it. And not only are there too many side stories, but instead of weaving them together, Hanson leaves them on their own. That's why this film would have worked better as a shorter film with either the love story or the father-son story cut out.

This is a poker movie without a lot of heart or emotion in the performances from the leads, but the poker action is realistic and the film is stocked with long poker-playing scenes. Poker fans will also enjoy seeing some of their favorite pros in the movie, but if you really want to watch a great poker movie, please do yourself a favor and go rent "Rounders".

Rating: 2 of 5 chips.

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