Directed by: Curtis Hanson
Written by:Eric Roth, Curtis Hanson
Starring: Eric Bana, Drew Barrymore, Robert Duvall, Horatio Sanz, Debra Messing, Jean Smart
Released: May 11, 2007
Grade: B-

I’m a big fan of poker and play regularly with my friends.  I am also a big fan of director Curtis Hanson (L.A. Confidential, Wonder Boys).  Sadly, the combination of these two ingredients has resulted in a less than stellar outcome.

Lucky You is the story of Huck Cheever (Bana), a poker player living in Vegas.  He may have talent playing reading other players but his boldness is his weakness.  As a result, he hasn’t a cent in the bank and very few assets.  The amount of time he spends gambling is also a hindrance to his social life.  He can never keep a girlfriend and he has few friends outside of the casino.

Making life tougher for Huck is the fact that his dad is a poker champion.  L.C. Cheever (Duvall) has won two world championships and is a legend in poker circles.  The fact that he’s hasn’t achieved the greatness of his father has been difficult for Huck to deal with.  His efforts to impress his father on the poker tables always have always ended in disaster.

At a get-together, Huck meets Billie (Barrymore), a wanna-be singer who has come to Las Vegas to find work.  She lands a gig at a small club and the two celebrate by hitting the poker tables.  It’s a fun night as Huck teaches Billie the art of playing Texas Hold’em poker.  Their relationship soon deteriorates however as Billie realises the troubles that come with dating an unsuccessful professional gambler.

The film is littered with cameos from real life poker players.  There’s Daniel Negrano, Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan and Phil Hellmuth.  I could list a dozen more but they’ll mean very little to those who don’t play.  Strangely though, these poker players don’t say anything nor are they identified by name.  I’d have liked to have seen them integrated more into the story.

For non-poker fans, you should be warned that there’s a lot of poker playing in the film.  Close to half the film is spent sitting at a poker table watching cards being dealt, chips being spilled and players being analysed.  Whilst these scenes are somewhat suspenseful, the rest of the film felt flat.  The character development felt rushed and underdone.  I was also confused by some of the supporting characters (such as Huck’s gambling buddies) and their significance in the film.

Despite the limitations in the story, director Curtis Hanson has still made a good-looking film.  Through the lens, he shows us the glamorous and not-so-glamorous parts of Las Vegas.  I also think he’s done a great job picking up familiar poker sounds.  I love the noise of poker chips being shuffled and cards being dealt.

At just over two hours in duration, Lucky You is an average movie with a few redeeming qualities.  You can gamble if you wish but it may be in your best interests to keep your wallet in your pocket.