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TV Review: LUCK - Pilot 1.1

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

I can’t say that I was expecting to much from new HBO Horse racing drama Luck, the show is produced by and stars non other than Dustin Hoffman who heads up a pretty impressive cast including Harry Potter’s Michael Gambon and Hollywood star Nick Nolte. I have seen plenty of trailers for the show but nothing which really made me want to see it before it was released on UK TV. It premiered here in England on 18th February 2012 on Sky Atlantic HD in the 9pm slot, what struck me as a little strange was it’s premiere date, a Saturday night. I couldn’t tell you another show which goes out at this time or on a Saturday, although it is a welcome inclusion to what is normally Saturday night trash Luck may come a cropper in a about a months time when Britain’s Got Talent Starts and takes over our weekends.

In the show Dustin Hoffman plays Chester “Ace” Bernstein and in the “Pilot” we see him being processed for release from Federal Prison where he has served three years, I’m not entirely sure what for up to this point. He is picked up from prison by his friend and driver Gus Demitriou (Dennis Farina) also known as “The Greek”, watch it and you’ll probably figure out why. They quickly wind up at Ace’s pent house apartment where they are seemingly doing a deal to buy a $2m race horse. Being in Federal prison has its draw back though and Ace is not allowed to own a race horse meaning that Gus must do the deal on his behalf. Quite why he is buying a race horse is yet to be explained but since Ace didn’t smile once during this “Pilot” I’ll presume that he has something up his sleeve.

As you would imagine when Dustin Hoffman was on screen he pretty much owned it, even when he wasn’t talking, his character is seemingly some what of a former hard man, or at least persuasive to some degree. Three years in Federal prison would seem to have knocked the stuffing out of Ace though, either that or he has something far cleverer than violence up his sleeve.

Other than those two you have Walter Smith (Nick Nolte), or “The Old Man” as he’s referred to mostly. Walter is an employee (former trainer) down at that track from what I can gather and works with warm up riders who prepare the horses for races. He seems to have an odd affection for horses. Then you have horse trainer Escelante (John Ortiz) the person who Ace has purchased the race horse from, is he the one he is looking for revenge against? I suppose we’ll have to wait and see. We are also introduced to a group of gamblers who call themselves professionals, really they are just unemployed and want
easy money betting on “pick 6” horses, good luck to them I say.

The “Pilot” was a pretty impressive episode, boring in places maybe but I felt like I didn’t want my brain to wonder at any point, otherwise you may miss something central to the plot. It was directed by non other than Michael Mann and boy could you tell especially if watching in HD, the detail and everything that had been thought about right down to how horses look after their morning warm up was brilliant. The actual race scenes were also spectacular, at times you would think you were watching a real race that you have bet on yourself, you could treat this as a Saturday race night get your friends round and get the beers in. The scene where the horses leg snapped mid race, man, that made me wince a little but, showed realism into just how dangerous thoroughbred horse racing is.

Luck is a show that I didn’t think I would like, on saying that I can’t say that after the “Pilot” I’m crazy about it but I’ll definitely be back for another look. I struggle to see Dustin Hoffman as a hard man, maybe he has been trying to Fockerise us all for to long, who knows. One thing I do know is that this was a very decent “Pilot” and although horse racing doesn’t interest me in the slightest I am intrigued to watch and see where this revenge for three years in Federal prison story goes.
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