As “Lucky Day” unfolds, you almost feel as if you just rented a post-Pulp Fiction 1990’s spin-off movie from your local video store. Remember such titles as “Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead?”, “Truth or Consequences in New Mexico”, and “2 Days in the Valley” to name just a few? Roger Avary’s latest film “Lucky Day” feels like a complete throwback to that style of 90’s pulpy filmmaking that has now reached a bygone era, and “Lucky Day” should feel like a throwback, Avary after all was the co-writer of “Pulp Fiction”, who later went onto to direct his own projects that consisted of the visually slick “Killing Zoe” (1995), and the criminally underrated “Rules of Attraction” (2002). “Lucky Day” marks his first feature since.
Avary has never received the proper praise or acknowledgement, even after winning an Academy Award along with Quentin Tarantino at the 1995 Oscars for Best Original Screenplay for the defining masterpiece “Pulp Fiction”. His 2002 “Rules of Attraction” was polarizing, yet he was doing some astonishing stylistic devices that consisted of split-screens that to this date still gives Brian De Palma’s split screens a run for his money, and he did many other formally daring pieces of stylistic flourishes in that film as well, including a Euro-trip montage that is perhaps the most impressive visual montage out of any film released so far this century.
Avary later went on a decade long hiatus, after being arrested for a tragic manslaughter car accident that involved a fatality of a close friend, and a severe injury of his wife. Avary served jail-time and probation for his crime, in which he showed great remorse. Personality and tragedy aside, Roger Avary is an overlooked artist, a brilliant writer, and an auteur that will hopefully receive the great praise he properly deserves. While his third feature film, “Lucky Day” may feel dusty, or a few decades too late, yet its still refreshing to see a pulpy noir dark comedy being released in 2019. These type of films will give you great nostalgia in those Tarantino riffs that are undeniably watchable and exuberant.
Perhaps borrowing from his own experiences, Avary’s protagonist Red (Luke Bracey) gets released from a two-year prison term, comes home to his beautiful French wife (Nina Dobrev) whom he calls “honeybun” (Certainly an ode to his and Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction”), and their daughter, Beatrice (Ella Ryan Quinn), all get caught up in severe circumstances involving Luc Chalfiier (Crispin Glover) who is trying to track them all down, and regain the lost US Treasury Notes that Red has hiding in a vault. Luc also wants to avenge the death of his brother, who was shot and killed by police after Red’s armed robbery at the US Treasury went awry.
“Lucky Day” is a undeniably entertaining watch, thanks mainly to a sharply comedic performance by Clifton Collins Jr., who steals the show on every level as a hard-edged corrections officer. Crispen Glover is a riot here too as the cold blooded killer. Though a little cartoonish and indeed over-the-top as he delivers self-aware mannerisms along with a deliberately campy French accent, you can’t deny just how audacious and inventive the character is. Glover is completely sinister and just a memorable riot here. His antics include slicing a hipsters throat, mowing down a cop with a low-rider muscle car, seducing his friends girlfriend in his own bar where even his own customers can hear her moans, and gunning down pretentious art snobs at an art gallery. This all may sound vile on paper, yet Avary and Glover together are able pull off this darkly comedic material that certainly generates brutal laughter.
The film goes back and forth between Luc and Red, until the third act where they have their confrontation that ends on a hackneyed and far less inventive note. The movie may feel like its from the 90’s, yet its that spirit that makes it watchable today. While Tarantino continues to evolve as a filmmaker, see “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”, Avary will certainly be dismissed by many critics as being “dated”, or “out of touch”. Let’s not forget Avary has been on a 17-year hiatus from directing, yet with his own sensibilities, or the Tarantino-esque spirit if you want to call it that, Avary is probably just warming up here as he gets back into filmmaking.
Avary was a co-inventor of the resurrection of crime-noir cinema, and “Lucky Day” still continues to prove he has sharp dialogue, outrageously and memorable characters, and darkly comedic savagery. Outside of Takashi Miike’s “First Love”, an excellent pulp-noirish thriller now showing that I strongly recommend, no other filmmaker today seems to making cinema like this. With reactionary political correctness from both sides of the aisle, it is nice seeing this type of edgy and lurid cinema return to form again, even if its more limited in its marketing and screening availability. Let’s just call “Lucky Day” the ultimate guilty pleasure movie of 2019.