Matt Savage v. Mike Matusow go toe-to-toe over “Lucky You”

Jon Pill
Published by:
Posted on 01/13/2021

Few people remember 2007’s Lucky You with any clarity. Those who do, tend to view it as a missed opportunity, rather than a poker movie triumph.

One person who does remember the movie and who likes it is Matt Savage. By day savage is the tournament director of the Commerce and Bay101 and an executive producer on the WPT. By night, for a brief period in the noughties, he was a movie actor. To jog your memory, he played the tournament director in Lucky You‘s WSOP scenes.

As a further reminder, the WSOP is the climax of the movie, with a pantomime version of Chris Moneymaker’s 2003 win.

While Savage has tweeted about the “theatrical masterpeice” before. One had to assume he was being ironic. But his most recent barrage of tweets suggests he is a genuine fan of the film.

Most recently he tweeted a photo of his residual check from 2020’s DVD, streaming, and TV sales. The princely sum of $22.99. Don’t mock, I have friends who are poets, and for them, that would be a princely royalty check. In another tweet, he referred to the movie as making a “comeback” and that it “really grows on you.”

Mike Matusow was having none of it.

Lucky You is something of a trigger for Mike Matusow, who also makes an appearance in the film. Albeit a much shorter one.

“Worst movie ever! Not just poker movie, movie! And I was in it,” tweeted Matusow.

“Oh Mike, cmon you know better than this,” came the reply. “Lucky You has lots of redeeming qualities.”

As is so often the case on twitter, the truth is that both of them were wrong.

Unlucky “Lucky You”

Lucky You was the first real chance for a movie studio to cash in seriously on the poker boom. This and the suspiciously similar Deal (much more memorable for being much worse) were in a race to beat each other into cinemas. But there wasn’t anything else with A-list backing being greenlit. They pretty much had a free shot.

The movie starred Eric Bana, who was coming off the box office successes with Troy and the Ang Lee Hulk. Along with the critical success of Munich. Drew Barrymore has never not been bankable. R.D.J., Debra Messing, Robert Duvall, and Michael Shannon all make appearances in smaller roles. And the movie was stuffed with cameos from a couple dozen poker players and iconic Vegas locations as fan service.

The script was by Forrest Gump‘s Eric Roth, the direction by L.A. Confidential‘s Curtis Hanson.

And yet, it currently has a 29% fresh critics’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes. This means 71% of the professional reviews were outright brutal.

So what did it get wrong?

The short answer is that Lucky You didn’t really get anything wrong. It just didn’t get anything very right either.

Rounders, to which comparisons are inevitable, was an attempt to use the sports movie format to explore the poker sub-culture of the late-90s in New York. Lucky You did the same for the last days of pre-boom poker in Vegas.

Only the genre it chose to do this was the rom-com.

The film-noir gambling parts never quite clicked with the lighter romantic elements. And some of the blame must fall on the strange choice of tone.

But when you look for some fatal flaw in the film there isn’t one really. No deal-breakers. No disasters. Just a piece of solid, practical, and uninspiring movie furniture.

The poker scenes are as plausible as could be hoped for from a film that came out just as Casino Royale was hitting blu-ray shelves. The script is solid, but uninspiring work from Roth. Ditto acting from the cast. Double ditto Curtis’s direction.

It felt like a dramatized documentary at some points, but one from PBS rather than the BBC.

Which is why when you mention the movie to poker players, the usual response is a pause while they search their memories, followed by a shrugged, “Oh, yeah.”

Which might be a more damning review than any of Matusow’s insults.

You can see some of Matt Savage’s performance in the background of this clip from YouTube.

Featured image source: Twitter