This is a review of the pilot of 'Luck', new series premiering 29th of January 2012, on HBO. It is based on a horse racing track and the events on a usual race day. HBO chose to air the premier right after the 2nd season finale of Boardwalk Empire (B.E) to give a teaser to the large audience who tuned in to see the nail biting, jaw dropping finale of B.E. Luck is supposed keep the audience hooked to HBO for a few months when their major shows are off till the return of Game of Thrones (GoT) in Spring. So without further ado, 5 points why you should watch this freshman show:
Opening Sequence: Like the cover of a book, the opening sequence can tell a lot about the show. Audience can often decide whether to switch the channel or not during those few seconds of the sequence. For that reason (I suppose) HBO usually pays a great attention to the opening credits/sequence of any T.V show they air. One of the best opening sequences have come from HBO ( The Sopranos, GoT, B.E, Entourage, to name a few). Similarly, the opening sequence for Luck has been very skillfully made. They have gone for the vintage photo effect in this, with some stunning colors. Although I didn't quite fancy the Chinese/Japanese neon glow board used for the title, which had a bit of a brothel-ish look to it (Oriental art is very 2004-05 for me). The theme song is also very like-able, 'Splitting the Atom' by Massive Attack, it also featured on the FIFA '11 soundtrack (probably why I like it so much).
Dustin Hoffman: the 2-time Oscar winner, is the first thing we see in Luck. Getting released from Jail after serving 3 years, he seems like the chief protagonist of this show. In the pilot, Hoffman has seemingly kept a lid on his character, remaining extremely calm and composed (except for that one scene where he jumps out screaming and tearing his shirt off). No one has any doubts about Hoffman's talent as an actor, hence, he alone could be the reason viewers tune in for this show.
Great Support Cast: If Hoffman alone wasn't enough attraction, Luck has some seriously talented, possibly expensive, and in my opinion, particularly under-rated Supporting Cast. 2-time Oscar nominee, Nick Nolte heads the list, acting as a mysterious, horse whispering type 'Old Man'. Two actors we've seen in countless movies and T.V shows yet never knew or remembered the names of, Richard Kind and Dennis Farina also make the cast; Former, plays a stammering agent of one the jockeys on the show; Latter, one of my favorite characters on the hilarious gangster film Snatch. Kevin Dunn, Jason Gedrick, Michael Gambon (of whom we didn't see anything in the pilot of, but eagerly await) and quite a few others make up this stellar cast list.
Brilliant Cinematography/Direction (specially of the races): Michael Mann has directed the pilot episode and with a touch of class as well. He has previously directed some blockbusters such as Public Enemies and Heat. Mann handled, potentially tricky/awkward scenes of the actual horse race, in a fantastic way. We can expect to see a lot of high-speed horses on the track in this show and if the scenes from the pilot episode are used as benchmark, we are in safe hands.
Plots and sub-plots: Luck is created by David Milch, 4-time Emmy winner, of the Deadwood fame. He's previously been involved in a handful of cop dramas such as NYPD Blue. Deadwood ended prematurely, according to some viewers/critics; so did John from Cincinnati apparently (his last creation for HBO, which also aired right after a blockbuster finale on HBO, more about it later). Not surprisingly, there doesn't appear to be just one plot in the show. As is normally the case with a big cast, a lot of stories run parallel. A mob associate comes out of jail in search of revenge, a trainer races a horse after hiding it for 2 years to win a huge pay-off race, handful of degenerate gamblers win a bankroll of a life time and an old man trains the next star horse; these are just the few stories which made up the pilot episode. At the end of the pilot, we see a glimpse of what's to come later in the season. It involves a lot more gambling, possibly race fixing, probably murder and other vices.
Negatives: It wasn't all rainbows and unicorns for Luck in the pilot episode. For starters, my last impression of Hoffman was Little Fockers, which was a total stinker. Hence, his involvement may not be a certain race winner (pun intended). Secondly, the extremely annoying accent of the trainer, John Oritz, made it absolutely impossible to fathom what he is saying. He's supposed to be Latin for God's sake, not from outer space or something. I'm really nitpicking here, but, the scene from the race where the horse breaks its leg, I would think that at full speed, a leg break would cause the horse to fall really badly. However, appallingly, he comes to a full halt, instantly. Kevin Dunn, who plays a disabled person on the wheel chair, appears to be moving his legs quite comfortably in a scene (again, nitpicking). The rules of betting have not been explained in much detail in the pilot, which could be difficult to understand for someone who has had little experience with horse racing. They need to address this issue in the episodes which follow. Lastly, the omens are against Luck, ironically. HBO used a trick which has previously failed; they aired premiered right after B.E finale. Previously, they aired the premier John from Cincinnati (by the same creator) right after the series finale of The Sopranos; John from Cincinnati made it to a grand total of 10 episodes before getting cancelled. Although, it could be blamed on the final scene of The Sopranos, which left most of the world scratching their heads. In conclusion, this show is a very Very watchable show, based on the pilot, and would do a decent job in the absence of other big name blockbuster shows.
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