Curtis Hanson hasn’t hit his stride since winning the Oscar for ‘LA Confidential’; ‘8 Mile’ was workable, and ‘In Her Shoes’ had its fans, but this limp, Vegas-set drama hobbles along with little energy for over two hours without ever knowing whether it’s a gambling flick, a father-and-son drama or a love story. Eric Bana is Huck Cheever, a laidback gambling addict with a name like an old-school baseball coach and a soft southern lilt to match. His dad is LC Cheever (Robert Duvall), a sucker for the Grecian 2000 and fancy shirts, who regularly eyes his son across the poker table and delights in beating him to the cash prize. The pair are at loggerheads: Cheever Snr didn’t treat Huck’s mum too well and delights in his son’s desperation. After an extended stand-off, they finally face each other at the poker World Series, while Huck’s new on-off love interest, Billie (Drew Barrymore) tries to persuade him that there’s more to life than Texas Hold ’Em.
The film is mildly interesting in its depicition of Vegas, a place where day melts into night with no respect for the niceties of working hours. Hanson indulges the soulless interiors of the city’s vast gaming-rooms and allows an impression of the place beyond the tourist-trail. That’s where the curiosity stops. Some of the gambling scenes have a thrill to them but Bana doesn’t hint at the desperation that his character’s behaviour suggests and Barrymore is no more than a spare part to sate the bored women in the audience. It’s a bit like watching those late-night poker shows on television: you’ll need a whisky or a smoke to get through it.