Herc’s PostCyberMonday Pricing Pantry
New This Week
“Luck,” from writer-producer David Milch (“NYPD Blue,” “Deadwood,” “John From Cincinnati”), I ultimately judge to be an unsuccessful project that might have gone on to be something better.
Its nine-episode first season followed the gamblers, trainers, jockeys and horse owners who inhabit Southern California’s Santa Anita racetrack. There was a lot to like (I loved the Jason Gedrick character’s repeated poker showdowns with Leo, a restaurateur played by “Big Trouble In Little China” icon Dennis Dun), but also a lot of characters that were hard to care about, and too many stories that didn’t really go anywhere. I judge it one of HBO’s lesser dramas.
... you're likely to feel a little lost at first, but, having seen seven of "Luck's" nine episodes, I can say that this impressively directed drama is very much worth sticking with. Not every aspect of "Luck" has the satisfying richness of the stories involving the trackside foursome and Nolte's quietly fascinating trainer; but the parts that do work possess the doom-laden yet strangely optimistic romanticism of Milch's best work. …
... It's a race involving [the Nolte character’s] horse in the show's fourth episode that brings the series together. Like a lot of HBO dramas — including the all-time great ones like "Deadwood," "The Wire" and "The Sopranos" — "Luck" takes a few hours to establish its world, characters and rules, and there are some stumbles in the early chapters. But when Gettin' Up Morning races in front of the small crowd, "Luck" — and its love of this dirty, obsolete, addictive world — comes to life. …
... not close to great. ... maddeningly and needlessly opaque, and so deferential to the rites and rituals of the track that the storytelling is labored and even joyless. It improves over time, but it’s not really until the finale that “Luck” quickens its pace and builds suspense and a sense of urgency. … One reason for all the mystification may be that deep down, past the color and drama of horse racing, there is not much mystery. Problems turn out not to be all that complicated. Characters who speak inscrutably don’t have that much to say. …
… I wondered at times if I was looking at a new rule-breaking version of the art form, a Monet perhaps, or a "Ulysses." Or I wondered if it was just a show drowning in pretension, the work of people hoping that novelty would disguise a lack of professional rigor. Having finished the nine-episode first season, I am inclined toward the former, though there is enough of the latter to make me appreciate the confines of more traditional television storytelling. Also, the value of network notes. ...
... even attentive viewers who aren't familiar with the race track-gambling world may be confused. Mr. Milch does not spell out everything in his scripts; he drops viewers into the world and expects them to fend for themselves. …
… "Deadwood" fans already know that Milch doesn't make it easy for viewers to get a purchase on his series, but for those willing to do the work, "Luck" pays off. …
… there is a limit. “Luck” is suffused with brilliant acting and amazing scenes, but in a few unfortunate ways, it remains impenetrable almost until its last hour. By that point, a lot of potential viewers will have wandered off. … There’s a lot to like in “Luck,” which is not the same as saying it’s entirely enjoyable. I’d call it tediously fascinating — however contradictory that may seem — and not required viewing. …
... As he did on the canceled-far-too-soon “Deadwood,” Milch sketches out eccentric characters and memorable dialogue. …
… Pretty good, yes; but great, no - or at least not great in that Sunday-night way HBO has led people to take for granted. …
... the action on the track so thrillingly photographed and edited you may not mind when the human drama so often feels stalled at the gate. ... the plot is as stubbornly slow-burning as Hoffman's sharply reined-in performance and ultimately far less inspired. …
If you want to have Luck, you'd better have patience. ... as much as Milch is clearly drawn to this world, he hasn't yet made it either a congenial or a particularly compelling place to visit. The smart money says he will. Whether you want to make that bet, though, is your call.
... addictive … I loved. Eventually. Yes, this is another critic flogging a cable drama by saying “It’s really good, but give it a few episodes.” And I’ll throw in another caveat—this is not a show for everyone, not even every fan of other HBO dramas. ...
... The cast is large and the show drops us into the stream of each character's life without much explanation. Go with the flow until it begins to make sense. It will. ...
... Like a lot of HBO series, Luck will require patience. It’s telling a dense story with nuanced characters and it doesn’t feel the need to rush in, like a network series, and hammer home the main themes. But each episode is more enriching, more engrossing than the last and there’s Hoffman’s superb turn at the forefront, even though his story unfolds with the least rush. Luck is a smart and ambitious series that looks to truly pay off in the home stretch. ...
… the fruits of all that thoroughbred talent are less than satisfying, luxuriating in a seamy array of desperate characters that Milch, an experienced horse owner and gambler, perhaps knows a little too well. Milch's mastery of language creates a distinctive world, and the show will surely have its admirers. That said, one suspects the payout to HBO audience-wise will be limited, with some apt to drift away short of the finish line.…
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