Noirish crime drama about small time crooks
Larry VanDeSande | Mason, Michigan United States | 11/17/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
""7 Times Lucky" is one of the most inappropriately named films in recent years because just about no one has any luck in this little film about con men, drifters, grifters and members of the mob.
A cast of people you've mostly never heard of -- including Kevin Pollak, Liane Balaban, Jonas Chernick, James Tolkan and Aleks Paunovic -- takes turns cheating on each other in cons so often that it makes the ongoing lying between mobsters in "The Sopranos" sound like little white lies between choir boys.
The main course in this film is a big con between three small time "friends" and how wrong a con can go. You will never guess how many members of the cast (who pretend to be friends or cohorts) are cheating each other during the middle 60 minutes of this movie. It's a bit difficult to imagine at any point who is telling the truth, who is cheating whom, and who is siding with whom against the other guys/gals. I'm not sure I ever got that straight, truth to tell.
The situations created in this movie go beyond anything you saw in "The Grifters" even though it has nothing as titillating as Annette Bening's two nude scenes. Everything in this movie is mental and creates enormous anguish for members of the crime troupe -- until you learn a scene later this one sided with this one to con that one.
There are some lapses of time and credibility during the course of the film where you wonder how in the world she showed up here doing that when she was just over there doing this...or how he can do this when he was just shot. But in the main this is an interesting film whose 80 minutes are full of unexpected twists.
You may have a little problem identifying with anyone early in the movie or finding anyone you like anytime during it. And if you haven't seen Kevin Pollak since "Casino" you are in for something of a shock.
Still, you'll get over this quickly and get involved with what's going on in this crime flick in short order. It is unpredicatble and will hold your attention all the way to its somewhat disappointing finish, where someone turns out to be a good guy after all. Bummer!"
"Fast hands, poor technique"
H. Bala | Carson - hey, we have an IKEA store! - CA USA | 08/07/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In this slick, tightly plotted grifter film set during the yuletide holiday, Kevin Pollak stars as Harlan, an aging, strictly small-time con-man who loses money that belongs to the mob on a bad horse tip. His crafty young protegee Fiona (Liane Balaban) schemes up an intricate, dangerous con to get it all back. Meanwhile, their sometimes partner Sonny has his own agenda, needing to pay off his own gambling debt by midnight, Christmas eve or the hard guys brutally end up on his case (Sonny's already donated a toe as interest). Of course, everything quickly goes to hell in a handbasket. And that's all the plot you'll get from me. By the way - not that this has anything to do with anything - my favorite scam is now the "snatch and grab."
Not since The Grifters came along has a movie of this kind been done so well. Its deception-filled plot wends its way down so many curves that it's a surprise the audience doesn't get dizzy in their seats. The swindles, the slick twists and turns, and the cold double crossings come fast and heavy as the viewer rapidly loses track of who's scamming who, and ends up not knowing who's on the side of the angels. However, it's worth it to stick to the final denouement as the surprises keep on coming until just about the very last bittersweet camera shot.
Kevin Pollak and a bunch of never-heard-of Canadian actors (Liane Balaban, Jonas Chernick, James Tolkan) combine to make 7 Times Lucky a welcome addition to the grift movie sub-genre. Pollak is a talented actor with chameleon-like, everyman qualities. In real life, he could be the funniest man in the world (he does awesome impressions of Christopher Walken and William Shatner) but, when called upon, he knows how to buckle down and deliver a strong dramatic performance. He is so very, very good here in portraying convincingly a down-and-out veteran scam artist with his own shabby code of honor. I couldn't help but feel for the guy. I could honestly say I have never seen Kevin Pollak better.
While the rest of the cast is universally good, it is Liane Balaban who also stands out. Liane Balaban - she of the gamine smile and the hard-bitten yet soulful eyes - is terrific in her ambiguous, vulnerable, many-faceted performance. As Fiona, you could almost see her brain churning out plot after plot, constantly weighing the odds. She's just great.
This is an unjustifiably overlooked indie film that came out in 2004, although it did wow the critics and audience in Sundance. This is Gary Yates's debut in directing a feature film and the excellent job he does here is sure to gain him a loyal fanbase and many future directing gigs. For a rookie effort, 7 Times Lucky is highly polished cinema. The sharp editing, the exquisite cinematography (I never knew Canadian cities could look so gritty), the ironically placed soundtrack (loved the recurring Nutcracker theme), the brilliant acting - it's all there. Set at a short running time of 83 minutes, this movie is fast paced and tensely diverting. It also manages to pass itself off as a gripping character study.
The Special Features include, among other things, a film commentary by director Gary Yates, Kevin Pollak, and Liane Balaban; deleted scenes with explanatory commentary; and a "Behind the Scenes" making of feature.
On a purely trivial level, according to one of the film's actors (Babs Chula), 7 Times Lucky is the name of the winning horse in the race Harlan loses his bet on.