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Worth A Look: 22.22%
Average: 22.22%
Pretty Bad: 22.22%
Total Crap: 0%

4 reviews, 3 user ratings

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by Erik Childress

"The Movie Is Its Own Cooler"
2 stars

Two subjects which I pledge an undying fixation on as movie plots are romance and gambling. It makes sense that the two would someday meet at a crossroads since its all about careful timing, risk and knowing when to quit. Love has known to turn the worst individuals into puppy dogs and gambling can turn the best into the most pathetic, vile beings. Peter Wellington’s Luck shows one individual on the rollercoaster ride between both peaks, but stumbles through unlikable characters written by the hand of someone who needed to take a few more risks himself.

Shane Bradley (Luke Kirby) is in one of those friendship relationships that he’d like to take to the next level. Margaret (Sarah Polley) is the Girl Friday who has just recently broken up with her jerk boyfriend, but is now considering traveling away to consider a reconciliation. The test kiss she plants on Shane further complicates the matter for him even if she hints that it was just an impulse that meant nothing.

Shane’s best friends, Andrew (Jed Rees), Robbie (Noam Jenkins) and Vittorio (Sergio DiZio) spend all of their waking hours at the track. Shane has never bet more than a few bucks, but he suddenly realizes the ol’ gambler’s decree. To win big, you have to bet big. And in the absence of the love of his life he discovers a new one, going on the biggest winning streak imaginable. Only to lose it all just as quick.

Shane now owes a big debt to the casino where Andrew works. A loan shark later and a more damning loss in store, Shane is now in over his head and takes Andrew up on the enterprise of being their own bookies. With the big 1972 Canada/Russia hockey series taking place and a country full of patriotic sports worshippers, what could be more profitable?

Except we really don’t care. Self-destruction has never been easy to watch on-screen, but usually there’s a rooting aspect to either liking the “victim” at the beginning or at least enough for him to eventually better himself. As played by Kirby, Shane never rises to nor deserves our outstretched hand, detached from every viable emotion short of anger and regret. If Wellington nails one part of the gambler’s obsession, it’s the hell of knowing what you could have (or should have) won.

This is never better documented than in a final scene that stings like an army of hornets flying away with your life savings. Shane’s handling of this situation is hardly admirable and thus probably in tune with the depths to which he’s sunk. But we realize that even if he reversed his behavior at this very moment and things evolved differently, we still wouldn’t care much for him nor Margaret whose last minute confession warrants a “thanks for nothin’, honey” response.

Luck isn’t so much a bad film as it is one that keeps us as observers rather than participants. Last year’s Sundance entry, Bookies, covered some similar territory but had some fun and style along with the danger. Owning Mahowny was far better crafted at putting us inside the compulsive gambler’s psyche. Luck becomes so much about the gambling without adding anything fresh that we keep longing for the return of Margaret, which doesn’t happen until it’s way too late to even remember love was associated with the film. Its stupefying climactic deus ex machina rivals that of The Cooler, which was still a far better connect-the-dots between love and gambling. Then again, like I always quote to my friends in Vegas, “To win big you have to do what? Lose big. What are we doing now? Losing big.”

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originally posted: 03/24/04 05:18:46
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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.

User Comments

8/27/07 Bruce Maniscalco Low budget masterpiece! Great movie ... I loved watching every frame of it. 5 stars
6/15/04 Brent Usry Now this is a good flick! Quality not good , but story overcomes that! 5 stars
3/27/04 Simon Gallagher Sharply written, great Canadian film 5 stars
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Directed by
  Peter Wellington

Written by
  Peter Wellington

  Luke Kirby
  Sarah Polley
  Jed Rees
  Noam Jenkins
  Sergio Di Zio
  Molly Parker

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