Lucky You (review)

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Australian actor Eric Bana, as that most American of creatures, the Vegas casino rat and compulsive gambler, lays on charm like it’s his second-best game — it is; his first is poker — then turns cold and hard as soon as he’s gotten what he wants. (It’s usually money: he’s usually broke and in hock to multiple unsavory characters.) Bana (Troy) is fascinating to watch here, particularly when he’s verbally sparring with Robert Duvall (Broken Trail) as his estranged father and fellow competitive poker player, but even his poker face roils with undercurrents of tension and smugness that play off one another in a beautiful ugly way. When this intriguing portrait of one man perfectly happy with his magnificently flawed self flies, which is most of the time, it’s thanks to Bana… though the smart script by hot screenwriter Eric Roth (The Good Shepherd) has a lot to do with it, too, as does director Curtis Hanson’s deft touch with understated male emotion (see also: Wonder Boys). Where the film is weakest is in the putative love story. Drew Barrymore’s (Curious George) whisper-weight good-girl buckles under Bana’s screen supremacy — he stalks around like he owns it, and she flutters nearby like she might be considering asking to borrow it for a while, maybe later; it’s hard to see her as anything but low stakes for him. Fortunately, this is not the romantic comedy it is being promoted as: it sees the intellectual-sports drama and raises with a bit of droll humor. In fact, the “sheesh, what gamblers will do for money, and on a bet” sequence is probably destined to become a little bit of classic cinema.

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