xXx: Return of Xander Cage
The last forty minutes of the movie do come together in a pretty diverting way.
Three soldiers, home on a month's leave from Iraq, find themselves on an odyssey from New York to Las Vegas in "The Lucky Ones." That's the setup. The journey involves your standard rest stops: friendly diners, dubious mechanics, fervent church people, roadside hookers, redneck saloons, lonely motels, tornadoes, casinos -- those sorts of things. This formula is fraught with pitfalls, but the characters and the actors redeem it with a surprising emotional impact.
Tim Robbins plays the father figure, a fiftysomething career Army sergeant who received a back injury and is returning home to St. Louis. After a blackout shuts down JFK, he rents a car and ends up taking the others on board. Rachel McAdams plays Pvt. Colee Dunn, who has a leg injury and is heading for Vegas to return a guitar belonging to her boyfriend, who was killed in the war. Michael Pena plays Sgt. T.K. Poole, injured by shrapnel in the groin, who wants to go to Vegas to find hookers who can reawaken his equipment before he meets his stateside girlfriend.
Don't laugh when I say this: These three resemble in broad outline the three returning servicemen in the classic "The Best Years of Our Lives" (1946). That film had an alcoholic older man returning to a loyal wife, a younger man returning to a sluttish wife and another afraid to marry his girlfriend because he had lost his hands. Change one man to a woman, shuffle a little, and you see what I mean.
That's doesn't mean the film is a "homage"; director and co-writer Neil Burger told me he hasn't seen the 1946 film. It means the underlying structure and character group is somewhat archetypal. What distinguished "Best Years" was its gravitas. What makes "The Lucky Ones" so gratifying to me is anything but gravitas; these three characters are simply likable, warm, sincere and often funny. The performances are so good, they carry the film right along.