(Distributed May 8, 2007)
“LUCKY YOU” MISSES CHANCE TO TELL A GREAT POKER STORY
There’s a line in the new movie “Lucky You” where our hero Huck Cheever says the “worst thing” that can happen to a poker player is when he “loses his nerve.”
Even if you think that’s true, it’s not as bad as the filmmakers having the nerve to produce such a lame flick, then hype it for more than a year as something special. A good player can rebound from adversity. There’s no saving “Lucky You.”
That’s too bad, because poker fans and most moviegoers would enjoy a film that truly captures the intensity and drama of playing in a World Series main event. If such a film played its cards right, you could toss in a love story, some Las Vegas seediness and a few Hollywood theatrics — and still have a compelling poker story.
“Lucky You” had the potential. About 20 of the biggest names in poker had roles in the film, sort of. But all you saw of Daniel Negreanu, Johnny Chan, Chris Ferguson, Mike Matusow, Sammy Farha and a bunch of other top players was a glimpse of them sitting at the tables. Even the great Doyle Brunson was limited to a few frames showing him busting out of the World Series and walking away.
John Hennigan and Jennifer Harman got a little camera time playing actual hands against Huck, portrayed by Eric Bana, but not nearly enough to inject much poker excitement into the film. Huck’s big scene with each amounted to him calling their all-in bluff.
Parts of the movie were a visual treat. The vistas and bright lights of Las Vegas always look good on film. So does Drew Barrymore as Billie, a lounge singer who hooks up with Huck despite plenty of warnings and misgivings.
Also, the moviemakers got lucky with the Bellagio sequences. The casino renovated its poker room in 2004 during filming, so Warner Brothers acquired the fixtures and replicated the famous room on a sound stage in California for the “big cash game” scenes.
I suppose the most believable part of the movie was Huck’s weakness as a compulsive gambler. He wasn’t portrayed as a degenerate exactly, but we’ve all heard stories about poker players who’ll do anything, including lie, cheat and steal, just to stay in the game.
The first 90 minutes of the two-hour film show him winning, then losing — over and over again — the $10,000 he needed to enter the 2003 WSOP main event. Since we knew he eventually would play for the title no matter what, all of the foreplay was more annoying than intriguing.
Great poker scenes might have saved the film. Instead, we got a succession of cliches about poker faces, professional poker being work, money is just a way of keeping score, a chip and a chair. For variety, I guess, the film tossed in some terms I’ve never heard at the table – “blaster” (the common word is maniac) and “coffeehousing” (instead of trash talking).
For movie-going poker players hoping to see some true insight into the game, there are two scenes that satisfy.
In one, Huck and his twice-champion dad L.C. Cheever, played by Robert Duvall, recreate a hold’em hand that cost the elder Cheever about $250,000 in cash. Their relationship throughout the movie was full of tension, but their strategy discussion, for students of the game, was captivating.
The other showed Huck intently watching his opponent’s reaction to a flop being spread in the center of the table instead of looking at the board cards himself. Not many amateurs do this, but with practice, it’s a tactic that can give you information about the strength or weakness of your adversary’s hand.
“Lucky You” saved its most sour note for the end, raising the prospect of collusion at the poker table in the big showdown hand between Huck and L.C. Let’s just say I’ve never seen pocket aces played that way.
At least a funny little clip after all of the credits rolled made me laugh out loud. No one was left in the theater by then but me. Saturday afternoon’s first showing had attracted six women and three men. One of the guys was young, but everyone else was about my age (ancient).
The good news was I had plenty of legroom and could hog both armrests, unlike those folks jammed into the adjoining theater to see Spider-Man 3. Lucky me.
E-mail your poker questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org for use in future columns. To find out more about Russ Scott and read previous LuckyDog Poker columns, visit www.creators.com or www.luckydogpoker.com.
COPYRIGHT 2007 RUSS SCOTT
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