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Editor’s note: This review was originally published at the 2023 Fantastic Fest. Well Go USA releases the film in theaters on Friday, November 10 and on streaming platforms on Tuesday, November 14.
“America doesn’t care how you get your money.” That line serves as a bleak thesis statement for “Your Lucky Day.” The feature debut from writer-director Dan Brown proceeds from the assumption that in America, nothing — not family, not integrity, not your personal safety or the safety of others — is more important than getting rich. And once you are rich, nothing else matters, including how you got that way. You can pay for lawyers to take care of all that, as sensitive stickup kid Sterling (Angus Cloud) tells his hostages early on in the film.
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Sterling’s plan to get rich is, to put it bluntly, short-sighted. He’s one of a handful of people who overhear a pushy, racist businessman discover that he’s holding a lottery ticket worth $156 million in a Miami convenience store two days before Christmas. Also present are Amir (Mousa Hussein Kraish), the owner of the place; frustrated musician and part-time Nordstrom pianist Abraham (Elliot Knight) and his pregnant girlfriend Ana-Marlene (Jessica Garza); and, crucially, a baby-faced cop, Cody (Sterling Beaumon).
Things get messy when Sterling, frustrated after getting ripped off by a couple of kids in a street-corner drug deal, decides that he needs that lottery ticket more than the guy who bought it. So he impulsively tapes a porno magazine to his face and pulls a gun. In the chaos that follows, Cody and Sterling exchange fire, and the cop and the “lucky” winner are killed. Sterling offers those who are left a deal: If they help him cover up the murders, he’ll give them a cut of his lottery winnings.
Over the course of what follows, that ticket gets bloodied and beat up until it’s useless — not that showing up with a piece of paper is enough to have hundreds of millions just handed to you, anyway. There are tracking systems in place, as Ana-Marlene, Amir, and Abraham try to explain to their captor/co-conspirator early on. But the promise of wealth trumps both logic and morality, and with some light persuasion, the group decides to band together in the name of fairness and class solidarity (or so they tell themselves) and execute Sterling’s plan.
During this exposition- (and rationalization-) heavy portion of the film, Cloud serves as a sort of doe-eyed, tough-talking therapist/priest to whom the other characters spill their traumas and insecurities. The dialogue is unsubtle and the circumstances implausible, and if anyone but Cloud was in his place it simply wouldn’t work. But the 25-year-old “Euphoria” actor — who died of an overdose in late July — has such a disarming presence that you actually can imagine people opening up to him, even though he was holding them at gunpoint an hour ago.
There’s a palpable sadness to Cloud’s screen persona in “Your Lucky Day,” and the film gets a lot meaner when he exits the narrative midway through. This is also the point where Brown’s 2010 short of the same name obviously ends. From here, the tension amps up in a siege plot involving crooked cops played by Jason O’Mara and Spencer Garrett, and Garza — mostly known for her TV work, with recurring roles on “Six,” “The Purge,” and “Penny Dreadful: City of Angels” — emerges as the true star of the piece.
“Your Lucky Day” moves along at an engaging pace throughout, although it doesn’t reach its brutal potential as a thriller until two-thirds of the way through. Up to that point, it’s burdened by clumsy repetition of its central theme — which taps into a legitimate (and also quite bleak) thread in American culture, but doesn’t need the persistent underlining it gets throughout the film. (It opens with a title card: “Based on the American Dream.”)
Most of the film takes place within the single location of Amir’s store, and Brown and cinematographer Justin Henning use a variety of techniques, from low camera angles to splashing champagne onto the lens, to keep it visually interesting throughout. But there are stretches of this film that are simply stronger than others — which is to be expected, perhaps, when a first-time director expands their own short into a feature. Can’t blame an American for chasing a dream, though. It’s what we do.
“Your Lucky Day” premiered at Fantastic Fest 2023. Well Go USA will release it in theaters on November 10, and on VOD on November 14.
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