Lucky – Review
by Tom Byam Shaw
It is inevitable that any actor’s final significant role will come to be seen as a coda for their work, as a conclusive statement on their life and performances. In Lucky, Harry Dean Stanton is no exception. The actor who made his name in Ride in the Whirlwind and Cool Hand Luke stars in one of his final roles as the eponymous Lucky, a film that is as much a pastiche of the actor’s earlier work as it is a sincere and considered meditation on life, death, and living.
There are no stakes in Lucky. Lucky is not a film about stakes. The drama in Lucky never escalates beyond the hunt for a missing tortoise, but the resultantly slow affair spends its time not in playing to the audience’s adrenaline but by developing a character who would be overlooked in any other film. Lucky’s an atheist, Lucky smokes a pack a day but is so healthy it baffles his doctor, Lucky obsessively watches game shows that he loathes, Lucky does the crossword and calls his friends to get help with it. The film could be considered an affectionate character study of the ‘old timer’, the western stock character, but one with a refreshing extent of consideration and a commitment to portraying a rounded person.
Despite Lucky’s assertion that there is “no soul”, the film is haunted by ghosts: the Western, a dead genre given a new post-ironic half-life through parody and gentle ribbing. David Lynch, whose character owns the aforementioned tortoise, one of Stanton’s favoured directors, appears as Howard. Lucky himself is a ghost, whatever cowboyish self he might have performed long extinct. But death is not the end. Not for Stanton, whose films remain with us even if he does not. Not for the Western which, though dead genres tell no tales, evidently has vigour left.