Luck is a movie whose viewing experience depends entirely on one's knowledge of international hockey circa 1972.That is the year the Canadian national team took on the best the Soviets had to offer, and it is from the outcome of this titanic hockey struggle that the future of aspiring writer turned gambling junkie Luke Kirby dangles by a slender thread.
Apparently the result of this game is well to known to Canadians and hockey freaks, with director Peter Wellington equating it to the Kennedy assassination in terms of Canadian historical significance.
It's akin to an American movie's dramatic conclusion hinging on the outcome of Ali-Foreman or Game 6 of the 1986 World Series.
Not that being aware of the outcome ruins the movie, it just makes for a different experience.
If you're unfamiliar with the series, the conclusion is fraught with tension as Kirby desperately tries to dip himself out of his self-destructive freefall.
But if you do know the outcome it's almost more painful as you must watch Kirby bury himself deeper and deeper into trouble knowing full well which way the with puck will fall.
For non-hockey fans, it would be like watching a character risk life and limb by betting on Foreman knowing full well he's going to get rope-a-doped by Ali or wagering on the Red Sox knowing the ball will trickle through Bill Buckner's legs.
The unifying factor is gambling. Regardless of the your hockey affections, if you love to gamble Luck pulsates with the adrenaline rush that comes only from risking more than you can afford to lose or winning more than will allow you to stop.
Kirby finds himself enraptured in that rush, but when the euphoria fades and fortuity abandons him he is $10,000 in the hole.
The solution seems simple enough: open a booking operation with his roommates in order to pay back an impatient loan shark.
Unfortunately, that seemingly foolproof plan goes awry and Kirby is forced to hinge his fate on the outcome of the eighth and deciding game of the Canadian/Soviet series.
Luck is one of those great gambling movies that treats the activity with reverence, in the same way that Rounders doesn't end with Matt Damon going straight but with him heading straight to Vegas to play more poker.
Sure, gambling can suck away your money and your soul, but winning provides an orgasmic ecstasy that is impossible to duplicate
That's the feeling Kirby wants. And he desperately needs it.
He dropped out of college to become a writer, but instead of the next great Canadian novel he writes descriptions of office furniture.
He's in love but is too afraid to tell the girl (My Life Without Me's Sarah Polley), who is contemplating reconciling with her ex-boyfriend. To add insult to injury, Kirby is reduced to the ultimate in lovelorn shame when the object of his pining asks him to feed her cat while she's vacationing with said ex-boyfriend in Europe.
Kirby begins gambling not for the money or even what the money can buy, but because he's so sick of losing at everything in his life.In the end it cost Kirby more than he wins, but as his voice-over states nothing can be gained if nothing is wagered. And in that mantra lies Luck's underlying theme, that sometimes the outcome isn't as important as having to cajones to take the risk.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 SXSW Film Festival. For more in the 2004 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Vancouver Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 CineVegas Film Festival. For more in the 2004 CineVegas Film Festival series, click here.