I don’t know, I guess part of the reason is because we play for low stakes ($5 buy-in). Also, it’s a nice, intimate setting where you’re with your friends, having drinks, cracking wise, and otherwise having a good time. One reason my gambling exploits haven’t extended to a casino is primarily because it is a very crowded, very depressing place. Sure, you’ve got fancy lights, full buffet, eccentric personalities who have their own idea of what brings them luck or when they feel especially lucky, but you remember the primary focus of a casino? It’s where people go to lose money. I’m sorry, but there’s no beating around the bush. You’re giving them your money. Granted, it’s the same thing with my friends, but I see two differences: (1.) You’re playing with your friends (not complete strangers), and you’re not the only one who’s paying to get into the game; and (2.) It’s five bucks. You’re not shelling out a third of a paycheck just to see if you can magically double it. But for most people, it doesn’t really matter. The thrill of potentially making more money than what you had when you walked through those double doors is a very addictive sensation.
And for the most part, movies are very sneaky about their depictions of casinos and those that frequent them. Sometimes, they use a casino as a place where people go to have a good time, or where they need to meet someone in order to advance the plot. Other times, they use a gambling addiction as a character flaw and how it affects that person and his/her friends. Or maybe they’ll show that’s it just a far superior bank that’s just waiting to be cracked.
And then you have the movies that are about the games themselves.
Granted, it’s really difficult to be interested in some of those games. Take Blackjack for instance. It’s a highly luck-based game where you’re given two cards with the goal of getting as close to the amount of 21 as possible, except it’s nigh impossible because the two cards in your hand usually don’t exceed 15 and when you ask for another card, you get a face card which is worth another ten points and are immediately busted, so the best course of action is to just stay with the two cards you’ve got, and you’re pitted against the dealer, giving you the illusion that your 15 can beat his visible 4, and when he flips the second face card, you get the feeling that you’ve won the hand by winning with one point to your favor, only for him to take it away by drawing a 7 card, not only beating your 15, but also your neighbor’s 17, 18, and 20, and you wonder why this has become your thirtieth hand on this STUPID table since you know that the dealer is a CHEATING BASTARD who’s only goal is to obtain as much money as possible from you and your apparently innocent neighbors so he can JUSTIFY HIS DEAD END JOB IN A SOULLESS ENTERPRISE, EXCEPT HE’S DONE IT FOR SO LONG THAT HE GETS HIS KICKS OUT OF TWISTING THE ODDS AND ENDS OF THE DECK SO HE CAN WIN BY ONE FRAKKING POINT AND WATCH YOUR FACE GO FROM IMMENSE GLEE TO NEVERENDING SORROW WHICH POWERS HIS PUPPY KICKING ABILITIES SO HE CAN BECOME THE VILLAIN KNOWN AS “BLACK-JACK” AND TERRORIZE THE WHOLE WEST COAST AND KEEP ON ONE-UPPING ALL OF HIS VICTIMS AND MAKING THE LITTLE CHILDREN CRY AND OVERTURNING BOWLS OF PUDDING AND BREAKING WINDOWS ALL IN THE NAME OF GARNERING ENOUGH INTEREST TO GO THROUGH A WEDNESDAY EVENING AND AUGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHRASSAFRASSINMACKADIGIMONATONABLAAAAAAAAAAAAA
Whew… sorry about that.
Not surprisingly, any movie showing casinos or gambling isn’t complete without the obligatory poker game. We’re mostly drawn to this game as opposed to the others because it isn’t entirely luck-based. Even if you have a terrible hand, you could win on the off-chance of having the other players think you’ve got something that will destroy them. That’s only if you have competent bluffing skills. If you go into this game expecting the truth, you’re going to be severely disappointed. And broke.
Of course, I didn’t know any of this when I went to see Lucky You in theaters a few years ago.
Here was the experience from my perspective: It’s 2007. Your roommate managed to get two free tickets for a movie that isn’t officially out in theaters yet. By sheer luck, he gave you those tickets, and you found a friend to go with you to see this film. You arrive at the theater, along with numerous other people who have also gotten advance tickets to see this film. You and your friend find relatively good seats and settle into the comfortable cusions as you wait for the movie to take place, all the while thinking “YES! This is so awesome! I’m totally gonna write a review of this as soon as I get home, like all those other top critics out there!”
And three years later, here it is.
Not exactly a personal record, but I wasn’t really expecting the movie that I saw. Or maybe I did.
In any case: Lucky You is a 2007 drama starring Eric Bana, Drew Barrymore, and Robert Duvall. The fact that Drew Barrymore is in this tells you everything you need to know about this film. To be fair, though, she’s a good actress. The only issue is that her movie choices have been terrible for the past few years. Your opion may vary on when her crap years started, but I have a pretty good feeling it became really apparent when Music and Lyrics came out just before this film did in the same year. Others might say it started as far back as Charlie’s Angels. I personally wouldn’t know because I haven’t seen Charlie’s Angels, and even if I did, I wouldn’t necessarily admit to having watched one of them, let alone both. I do have to look at myself in the mirror everytime I go to the bathroom, you know.
So let’s dive in and see how this movie’s luck fares:
– – –
We open to a pair of really old hands belonging to a fairly old woman fiddling with jewelry in a display box when our bad boy stranger (played by Eric Bana) walks into the store carrying a camera in its original box. He puts the camera down on the countar and asks how she’s doing. Without missing a beat, she tells him the camera will be $150 dollars to sell because she’s already got three of them. Damn, I guess she saw him in Hulk and wanted to get revenge on him all those years later. The stranger then turns on the charm and justifies his asking price of $300 by telling her how she can make a profit by selling the four cameras, which boils down to: price two cameras identically, the third for less, and the fourth higher. He then goes through a Psychology 101 shpiel on how a customer walks into the store and goes through the thought process of disregarding the third for being defective, turning his attention to either the regular priced cameras or the fourth which is still in it’s container, thereby guaranteeing a profit for the pawn shop owner. She is impressed, until she responds in deadpan that all of her cameras come with a box.
Enter his gambling stare:
And you better get used to that stare, because he does it for everything that goes through his frakking mind. His expression barely changes for the entire film. Oh sure, it’s a poker movie, so you gotta have a working poker face, but he has this expression when he’s NOT playing poker. I’m serious. He has that on when he’s happy, sad, angry, having an orgasm… Hell, you could even chop off his big toe and he’d still have the look of your father waiting in the living room as you slip into the house after having destroyed his prize Cadillac earlier that day.
In any case, he bets the camera on her claim that she has the boxes. After some prodding, she decides to throw in an extra fifty dollars for the “entertainment”. How charitable, except I think she was expecting a different kind of entertainment that evening. The stranger pulls off a ring that was attached to his keyring and puts it on the counter, intending to pawn it. The pawn store owner asks him for his name so she knows who this ring belongs to (and so I don’t have to keep calling him “The Stranger” when he meets other, weirder strangers). He tells her his name is Huck.
His name is Huck?
As in Huck Finn, Huckleberry Hound, well-huck-you-you-hucking-motherhucker?
On second thought, “The Stranger” sounds pretty cool.
Unfortunately, Huck couldn’t acquire the rights to be called “The Stranger” from Clint Eastwood, so he receives another $150 dollars from the pawn store owner, with instructions to return in 120 days to buy the ring back. He walks out of the shop and gets on his motorcycle, now $350 dollars richer. So what does he plan to do with his newly earned money?
Why gamble it away, of course.
He arrives at one of the many casinos in Las Vegas, Nevada, and decides to “swim with the little fish for a while”. Meaning that he wants to use his tricks with the inexperienced players.
That’s about par the course for Eric Bana, yeah.
My favorite part is when he’s facing down one poker player when the river is 7, 10, 6, 7, and 9. The player throws 16 to bet, and Huck reasons (out loud, too) that the player might have the eight to make the straight, or have a third seven. And then he raises to 32. The player looks at Huck, but is no match for his stare and folds. While Huck collects his winning, the player reaches across and finds that Huck had a 5 and a 3. He says “Nothing. You raised with nothing?”
Seriously? If you have to ask that question, then I’m not sure you’re old enough to be gambling.
So after earning over 10,000 in chips, Huck takes a break and watches people gamble over a volleyball game when his eyes come across Another Stranger (played by Drew Barrymore) while she’s being hit on by a guy in a tight, yellow polo shirt. Clearly, this man must be destroyed. Huck saves Another Stranger by pretending to be her boyfriend. Her name turns out to be Billie, who is the little sister of Suzanne (played by Debra Messing, for some random reason), an old flame of Huck’s.
But we don’t have time to learn more about either one of them, as we’re off to play with the big boys. Yes, Huck decides to drive across the strip and get into a high stakes table, where everybody knows his name. After playing for a while and winning a whole lot of money, the table gets a special visitor: L.C. (played by Robert Duvall). This visibly upsets Huck. I know because his face changed from the poker face that he usually has on for most of the film. L.C. casually drops twenty thousand dollars onto the table so they can be exchanged for chips. That’s $20,000. I’m nervous enough walking around a small town with a hundred dollars in my wallet, and this guy magically produces $20,000 from his person and just drops it like he was paying for coffee at a local diner. Needless to say, this guy has become my favorite character because of his Robert Duvall-sized balls.
Some time later, Huck stands against L.C. while the old man does the exact same thing that Huck does: he reasons out loud what cards could or could not work with the river that’s on the table, and tells Huck that he should just check and live to play another day. Huck rebuffs the old man and rebels by putting all his chips in.
What do you think happens next?
(a.) L.C. folds and lets the pot go to Huck.
(b.) L.C. calls it, the two square off, and Huck has the winning hand.
(c.) L.C. calls it, and with good reason because he has the superior hand and wipes Huck out completely.
That’s right, it’s (d.) L.C. calls him out on his rebellion, prompting Huck to also bet the pawn shop ticket for the ring along with the chips, and gets wiped out anyway by L.C. Glad to see that reason makes such a lasting impression on Huck. Doy.
And you know what that means? It means that, aside from some exposition that could have been easily explained by a couple characters, the whole intro to the movie was absolutely pointless.
So it’s here we learn that L.C. is Huck’s father.
Well that would explain the constant need for the lecture about every hand of poker.
While Huck is leaving the table, a short man comes up to him and says “You know what your problem is? You.” Meanwhile, Huck is mentally thinking “No, you know what my problem is? I’d have to clean my shoe after I punt you across the casino.” But we find that wouldn’t be a good idea as the short man in question is a loan shark, and he wants to recruit Huck for the AMAZING SPECTACULAR GRANDIOSE POKER TOURNAMENT coming up soon. Huck refuses. Instead, he decides to borrow money from…
Robert Downey Jr.? What on earth is he doing in this movie?
Anyway! He says no to Huck, so Huck decides to visit Suzannne to get some money. Instead, he finds Billie sitting on the steps. Billie gets a call on her cell phone, and she exclaims with glee that she got a job as a singer at Dino’s.
Ha! That’s a good one, movie. You had me going there for a second.
Huck decides that this is an event worth celebrating. And with that, he says “Let’s go!” Where do you think the two of them go?
Why gamble some of her money away, of course.
So he takes Billie down to a casino and teaches her the finer points of Texas Hold ‘Em while facing off against someone who looks suspiciously like Billie Jean King. During one hand, Huck and Billie (the Drew Barrymore one) have three 8’s, but Huck folds the cards after Billie (the Jean King one) raises to 80. The player next to Huck and Billie continues on and produces two pair, 10’s and 4’s. Billie Jean King, as Huck used as the basis of folding, reveals a King and Queen, which went perfectly with the 10, Jack, and Ace on the table. Here, Huck tells Billie (Barrymore) that a good fold is just as important as a win. Yes, he should know about this since his father wiped the floor with him on that particular lesson.
Speaking of which, L.C. decides to drop on by and say hello to Huck, as well as meet the sweet Billie.
That’s the Drew Barrymore one. L.C. already has a date, so it wouldn’t be prudent to visit Billie Jean King.
Huck gets steamed about the visit, and decides to fight aggressively at the table. Billie has to go to her first day on the “job”, so Huck gives her the chips that she won at the table independent of his own chips. But he asks if she wouldn’t mind cashing those in for herself, as he doesn’t want to leave the table because he’s having a good stroke of luck at that moment.
So after another failed attempt to gather money for the AMAZING SPECTACULAR GRANDIOSE POKER TOURNAMENT coming soon, he visits Billie at her job and then takes her out to dinner. It is revealed that his luck ran a little dry after she left.
And this movie is trying to tell me that he wants to compete in a tournament with a $10,000 entry fee.
… not seeing the issue yet? OK then. I’ll give you a little more time to digest that piece of information.
The two of them go to a vista, where he pulls out all the moves on her, which leads to the kiss. Wow, that was fast. Usually, you have to wait till the end of the movie to get to that result, and it’s only 40 min. in for this movie. Huck then takes her to his house (which is empty by the way) and proceeds to show her the bedroom.
About ten minutes later (I’m kidding… it had to have been at least four), Huck sits up in bed. After some careful and considerate thinking, he eyes Billie’s purse.
Then the scene cuts to him at a poker table with a ton of chips on his side of the table. After some more gambling (followed by more losing), he goes back to Billie, who is ticked off at him. It probably has to do with the money that he stole from her purse after that one night. Just for future reference, Huck, they tend to remember that sorta thing. She tosses him another two hundred dollars out of spite and leaves in the cab that she called from her place. Weird way of expressing your anger, but OK, I’ll roll with it.
Huck looks longingly at her cab.
Then his gaze turns down to the two hundred dollars on the ground.
And the next thing we know, he’s competing for a seat in the poker tournament.
So after a long grueling session, there are only two players left: Huck, and some asshole who keeps on bringing up Huck’s father like it gives him some kind of edge. So it’s the first hand between the two, and the other player is going all in. Huck asks the elderly dealer how many chips the second guy has, and the dealer tries his best to count the two large stacks. This doesn’t please the other player much, until the dealer tells him the chip amount, and Huck agrees to going all in.
Asshole: pair of 8’s.
Huck: pair of 10’s.
The dealer pulls out the five cards, and without another 8 to make three of a kind to beat his pair of 10’s, Huck is the winner! He’s going to the AMAZING SPECTACULAR GRANDIOSE POKER TOURNAMENT!
Until a casino official declares a misdeal because the elderly dealer forgot to burn a card before putting down the fifth and final card for the table.
Now, here’s my question:
If this dealer can barely count, and he forgot to deal properly, then why the hell does he still have a job at that casino? Those are sorta the two important traits of a casino dealer, and if you can’t do them as effectively as when you were twenty years younger, perhaps it’s time to move on to moderating Bingo tournaments.
So as you probably guessed, the last card that was played is burned, and a new card is dealt. And as you probably knew, Huck is out of luck while the other player gets a seat in the poker tournament.
Man, what an asshole…
So Huck goes back to the short man that he rebuffed earlier in the film and agrees to play for him. The short man then shells out ten thousand dollars for Huck to get into the poker tournament.
And you know what that means? It means that the 53 minutes spent to get money to buy into the tournament was absolutely pointless.
But all is not lost, as Huck as obtains an extra $1,200 to pay back to Billie. (And seriously, what is the deal with these people carrying over ten thousand dollars in cash and on their person? You don’t need to rob a casino, Danny Ocean, you just gotta keep sticking up one of these guys every couple of days!) So Huck and Billie have the earnest talk and they decide to have lunch at a diner, when who of all people should show up?
That’s right, it’s L.C.
How on earth is L.C. continually able to find him? It’s Las Vegas. That city is gigantic. Did L.C. have a tracking device implanted in Huck so he could find him when he desperately needed someone to one-up against?
Billie leaves the table to go do Drew Barrymore stuff. L.C. then regales to his son a game he had where he was sure he could win, but got blindsided by a play that, quite realistically, could happen to anyone. Huck calls him out on this, and the two lock gambling stares. Before the universe implodes from the sheer magnitude of their poker faces, L.C. decides that they should settle this by playing a few hands of poker, right there on the diner table.
So what does Huck do?
Why gambles away all of his entrance fee for the tournament, of course.
*bangs head on desk*
And it’s here I have to address this: Huck is a loser. A straight up gambling addict. Why we’re supposed to sympathize with him is anybody’s guess. I sure don’t. This guy is so arrogant because of his reading skills, he always plays fast and loose with his money. It’s a wonder he hasn’t ended up on the street years ago because he doesn’t know any better. And it’s quite clear. In fact, L.C. calls him out on this when he tries to give Huck back the money that he lost. Naturally, Huck refuses. And why not? This guy quite clearly is too proud of his so called “skill” that he feels he can take care of everything on his own, despite having gone through several instances where his own tends to cost him more and more. I bet he’s lost upwards of $100,000, and that’s just from the movie alone. Who knows how long he’s been doing this? He could have lost over half a million dollars before the events of this movie. How sad would that be? To have made that kind of money, but lose it all.
Sigh… and I still have an hour to go… WHY…
So, Huck calls his friend Eddie (played by Horatio Sanz, of all people) and arranges a bet with him. Eddie will shell out ten thousand dollars if Huck runs 5 miles, shoots 18 holes of golf in 78 strokes or less, and does all of this in under three hours.
Oh, come on. Could you beat that?
So Huck is seated by the empty pool in his house when two guys approach him. They come from the short man (you know, the loan shark) and throw Huck into the empty pool, telling him to either get the man’s money back or get a seat in the tournamnet in 24 hours. And here I thought they were going to kill him and end the movie quickly. Huck goes to visit Billie but instead runs into Suzanne (once again played by Debra Messing) who gives him the life lesson of his life. And she is the perfect choice for it: she’s had to put up with Will for God knows how long. After that enjoyable encounter, he goes to a casino and gets back to his father, asking him for chips.
And you know what that means. Ugh.
So, Huck gets the ten thousand, and he’s in tournament.
Now, even though the movie does a good job of compressing all of the poker playings up until the grand finale, I still have to compress it because it’s already gone on for too damn long. I will say, however, that he gets a special visit from the asshole and the two butt heads again. This time, the asshole decides to go all in over nothing. Which is a huge improvement over the pair of 8’s that he went all in with before. I wonder if this guy was nervous about going up against L.C.’s son and went all in just because he was insecure. Either that or the movie decided that he needed to be put in his proper place.
So the movie approaches to the final, which is about damn time. The final players are: Huck, L.C., and a man named Jason Keyes, “the amateur internet player from Tucson, Arizona, playing in his first live tournament.” How reassuring.
It’s the first hand. Huck plays it cool with two aces, trying not to blast his way through like he did throughout the whole film. Jason Keyes folds. Now it’s just Huck and L.C. The flop comes around: seven, five, and a 2, each one a different suit. They play a quiet game of call and raise, trying to seem non-threatening to each other. The turn: the 2 of spades. One more round of calls, and the river: the 8 of hearts. Huck is now probably wishing he had a pair of two’s already in his hand. After some out loud talking from both father and son, L.C. proclaims that he’s got Huck beat and goes all in. Huck returns the favor, and L.C. throws his cards out to reveal:
What? What’s this? Huck has taken his father all in, and he could beat him? YES! This is it! This is his chance to get back at his father and show him just how much he’s improved ever since this movie began! This is his time to shine, to take the place of his father and…
… he folds?
Huck folds his hand?
Huck let’s his father win when he could have beaten him?!
Seriously, what the hell? You’re telling me that he let his father win? The same one who said “that ain’t gonna happen” to Huck’s chance of besting him in a poker game? You’re gonna let him think he got the better of you? What an idiot! Although, to be entirely fair, Huck does reveal to his father after the tournament that he felt that it was his time to win.
Well, all sunshine and giggles, Huck. Except there are two things you didn’t take into account.
1. L.C. was already a two time world champion. What, did you feel that third time was the charm?
But most of all:
2. L.C. lost.
That’s right. L.C., big-wig of poker, lost to a guy who primarily plays on the internet.
“Well, you were wrong about that…”
– Robert Duvall to Huck. Yeah, you read that right: Robert Frakking Duvall.
YOU ARE AN IDIOT, HUCK CHEEVER.
Ugh… seriously, this is just painful. I mean, I get that Huck wanted to at least build bridges with his slick father, and props to him. But there are vastly cheaper ways of doing that. You know that diner where they started gambling money away? That was one place. During a cheaper poker game? That’s another! You don’t throw away a poker tournament worth 2.5 million dollars just to build back a relationship with your dad. You could have won that tournament and gotten the exact same result! The very first thing L.C. did in this movie was throw down twenty thousand dollars just for a measly high stakes games. That’s two entry placements for the tournament. You know, that thing that Huck was trying to make enough money for just to be in it? Quite clearly, L.C. doesn’t need the money!
You know what? Actually, this is probably a good thing. Let’s say that Huck beat L.C., and also, by some huge miracle, managed to beat the internet guy. The casino will have basically awarded Huck 2.5 million dollars. That’s Huck: the guy who spent the majority of this movie just blasting all of his chips away and otherwise being irresponsible with not only his money, but also everyone else’s money. Sure he learned his lesson and played it cool with the tournament, but considering how much more important the tournament was to a regular poker table, how long do you think he would have kept on to that lesson before he was back to blowing chips because he has no real sense of discipline? Huh?
Blah… so Huck and his father mend bridges, Huck goes to see Billie, we watch Drew Barrymore sing again (as if once wasn’t enough), and the two of them kiss.
– – –
Well, let me first say: THIS MOVIE WAS TOO DAMN LONG! I know you have to have plenty of time to convey the drama of poker, but considering that Casino Royale managed to pull that off while combining it with a regular action flick, there’s just no room for that excuse. Literally, there’s no room.
But no, that’s not the worst of it. The worst part of this entire movie is that most of it was entirely pointless. The ring? Pointless. The running around to scrounge up the tournament fee? Pointless. The deal with the short man to get into the tournament in the first place? Pointless. There’s just so much pointless plotlines. This movie is like a mouse in a maze: if the mouse had went left when it instead turned to the right, it would have saved the mouse useless time in the maze and got it one step closer to the cheese at the end. Now imagine it on repeat, and you get this movie.
And another thing: this has to be a clear indication of Drew Barrymore setting her standards down, because aside from maybe one or two tender moments between the two, Huck was a self-obsessed jerk. And you’re gonna go for him? Did the leather jacket not clue you in? I mean, Hugh Grant wasn’t this dickish in Music and Lyrics. Is this to show the difference between British men and American men? Little does she know that that’s not a good comparison because it’s showing both of them chasing after Drew Barrymore.
Whatever. If you’ve got two hours that you aren’t going to particularly miss, go see this. I’m sure glad I was able to see this for free when I did. My friend might not have been so lucky with having spent gas money to go see it, on the other hand…
And that’s Lucky You. I’ll leave you with a lyric that might have done Huck some good:
“And the game never ends, when your whole world depends on the turn of a friendly card…”
– The Alan Parsons Project “The Turn Of A Friendly Card (Part 1)”
Oh shut up. Edward Norton was better, and you know it. Now why don’t you go write some little haiku to post on your fridge?