Curtis Hanson is the one of the more underrated directors of our time (think a less prolific Howard Hawks). Versatile and uniquely talented as a storyteller, Hanson is one of the few contemporary filmmakers who works within the Hollywood system without dumbing down his material (see L.A.
Confidential) or succumbing to A-list actor vanities (see the overlooked Wonder Boys, in which Michael Douglas gives the performance of his career). His latest, Lucky You, a gambling picture starring Eric Bana, Drew Barrymore and Robert Duvall, was delayed twice by Warner Bros. before eventually being matched up against their own Spiderman 3 when it finally did get a theatrical release (i.e., no one saw it). While Lucky You lacks the gritty urgency of such gambling movies as California Split or The Hustler, it does possess its own laconic charms. The understated interplay between Bana's Huck and Duvall's L.C., an estranged father-and-son poker-playing duo who are much better at evaluating cards than dealing with their rocky relationship, is the film's central concern and saving grace. L.C. is a two-time winner of The World Series of Poker who has influenced his son in ways both obvious and subtle. Huck has skills, too, but a reckless streak has derailed not only his card playing but also his ability to cultivate any type of lasting relationship. While Barrymore is completely wasted in an underwritten role as Bana's love interest, Lucky You aces the nuances of the poker game, making Casino Royale's over-the-top theatrics look foolish by comparison. Grade: B-
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