out of Five
Running time: 124
Below average, overlong drama that fails to deliver an emotional punch, largely because it's unsure of whether it wants to be a father-son drama or a romcom.
What's it all about?
Eric Bana plays Huckleberry Cheever, a professional poker player-slash-addict who has never forgiven his poker legend father, L.C. Cheever (Robert Duvall), for some unspecified past misdeed. As the 2003 Poker World Series draws closer, Huck realises that he has some issues he needs to work through with dear old dad, particularly as the old man seems to be able to clean him out at the poker tables.
Meanwhile, Huck has two other problems to deal with: first, he has to scrabble around for stake money for the World Series and second, after years of no strings, commitment-free relationships, he suddenly finds himself attracted to lounge singer Billie Offer (Drew Barrymore). Unfortunately, Billie proves adept at reading people and she isn't sure she wants to get involved with someone like Huck.
There are a few decent scenes (Huck pawning a camera in the opening scene, an against-the-clock golf game) and Duvall is always good value. There are also decent cameos from Robert Downey Jnr and Debra Messing.
The film's main problem is that it's never sure whether it wants to be an emotional father-son drama, an intelligent romcom or a character study of a gambling addict. As a result, none of the supposedly dramatic moments really ring true and it lacks a suitably emotional climax.
In addition, the film is at least 30 minutes too long and there's zero chemistry between a miscast Bana (who looks uncomfortable throughout) and Barrymore. There's also far too much emphasis on poker and the games are difficult to follow unless you're a devotee of Late Night Poker on TV.
This is a rare misfire from the usually reliable Curtis Hanson, despite the occasional decent scene. Wait for the DVD instead.