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"Your Lucky Day" is quick and nasty, leaving barely a moment for breathing room, philosophy, or even a statement of themes and motivation. You don't need the statement. Writer/director Daniel Brown attempts to actually do something besides telling a story about a hostage situation in a Sip 'n Go. There's nothing wrong with entertainment, but when multiplexes are filled with films that don't address systemic issues, something like "Your Lucky Day" is a welcome change. It works as a genre film; it's thrilling and suspenseful, with enough twists to keep you guessing, but the pointed commentary is impossible to ignore.
Late at night, a group of strangers find themselves in a little corner convenience store. Brown wastes no time introducing each character. Amir (Mousa Hussein Kraish), behind the counter, owns the store with his brother. Sterling (the late Angus Cloud) huddles over a magazine, looking extremely sketchy. Ana (Jessica Garza), hugely pregnant and still in her waitress uniform, stands by the ice cream freezer with her boyfriend Abraham (Elliot Knight) in a suit and tie from his gig playing piano at a mall. An off-duty security guard (Charlie Magdaleno) wanders the aisle. And finally, there's Mr. Laird (Spencer Garrett) at the counter. We overhear all of these people having conversations. Everyone is talking about money. Mr. Laird balks at the price of what he's buying, treating Amir disrespectfully before proclaiming, "I love small businesses." Sure you do. He then buys a lottery ticket and promptly wins $156 million. Laird might be a cocky jerk, but he is also stupid because he makes an excited scene about how much money he just won. Everyone is visibly irritated. They all could use that money. Why did it have to be him?
Sterling is the only one who acts on the collective irritation. He demands Laird hand over the ticket. The confrontation intensifies. Amir loses control of his store. Ana and Abraham huddle over by the ice cream freezer. The security guard decides to be a hero. Shots are fired. They won't be the last. From this moment forward, the fate of everyone in the store is sealed. They are no longer individuals; they are a collective embroiled in a situation spiraling out of control. Nothing unfolds according to plan. Sterling suddenly finds himself a hostage-taker, but he is no Sonny in "Dog Day Afternoon," screaming "Attica! Attica!" to an enthusiastic crowd outside. He lacks the charm. He also didn't count on his hostages rising to challenge him, to basically become his co-conspirators.
Let's not forget everyone saw Mr. Laird win $156 million. The ticket is there for the taking. Everyone, including the SWAT team, who eventually gather outside, is after that ticket. It doesn't matter who gets hurt in the process. The lure is too great. The script is very good, and the pacing is excellent. It almost plays out in real-time. One character has a "here is my backstory" monologue that feels unnecessary, the only time the film drags. What's clear is that 99% of us are in the same boat when it comes to money. The characters' problems in "Your Lucky Day" are not out-of-the-ordinary. Money isn't everything, but it certainly isn't nothing, not when you have mouths to feed, can't afford rent, or don't have health insurance. There is solidarity across differences when it comes to money. Solidarity here breaks down, though, because of Mr. Laird's winning ticket.
In George Orwell's dystopian 1984, one of the few ways Big Brother interacts with its populace is through the lottery, run by the laughably-named "Ministry of Plenty." The lottery is used by the State deliberately and consciously as a way to keep the "proles" wrapped in an illusion of economic participation, dreaming of financial release. It's not real, of course. It's a scam. But it does what it's supposed to do. "Your Lucky Day" understands Orwell's critique. The film is not exactly cynical, but it is dark. The darkness is exciting. What's also exciting is Brown's resistance to explaining what he's saying. At one point, Abraham, on a desperate solo mission, runs through a deserted seaport, surrounded by massive cargo containers waiting to be shipped off into the faceless global market, the market overseen by the 1%, a teeny elite population who would think $156 million was pocket change. Meanwhile, Abraham's girlfriend is eight months pregnant and still on her feet all day waiting tables. There is something wrong with this picture. There is something wrong with everything.
At the Sip 'n Go, there's a neon sign on the wall over the snacks and slushie maker proclaiming: "You Deserve It!". Those words could be heard as positive encouragement or judgmental contempt. "Your Lucky Day" has layers all around.
Now playing in theaters and available on digital platforms on November 14th.
Angus Cloud as Sterling
Elliot Knight as Abraham
Jessica Garza as Ana Marlene
Sterling Beaumon as Cody
Mousa Hussein Kraish as Amir
Spencer Garrett as Mr. Laird
Jason O'Mara as Captain Rutledge
Jason Wiles as Dick
Sebastian Sozzi as Dobbs