Oh hai Roger Avary, where ya been?
Apart from a one-year stint in the Ventura County Jail, the co-screenwriter of Pulp Fiction seemingly hadn’t been doing much of anything since his 2002 Bret Easton Ellis adaptation, The Rules of Attraction, became an instant cult classic for the college dorm room crowd. But now, 17 years later, he’s got a new directorial effort, Lucky Day, and it’s a homecoming of sorts, with the Manitoba-born filmmaker making a full-on Telefilm-funded Canadian production for the first time in his career.
Not that it takes place in Canada or anything. Lucky Day is a Los Angeles-set (but actually shot in Toronto and Hamilton) comic neo-noir about a bunch of lowlife criminal types bouncing around Hollywood over the course of a very hectic 24 hours. Sound familiar? Unfortunately, the only thing that’s really funny about it is how strikingly similar it is to the kind of post-Tarantino crime movie knockoffs that flooded screens in the mid to late ‘90s.
Lucky Day mainly centres around two characters – good guy Red (Luke Bracey), a safecracker newly released from prison who is just happy to rejoin his artist wife (Nina Dobrev) and young daughter, and Luc (Crispin Glover), a psychotic French hitman newly arrived in L.A. in order to kill Red, who he blames for the death of his brother in the job that sent him to the slammer. I’m not sure if the idea for Glover to play his character as a ridiculously thick-accented Frenchman was Avary’s or his own, but you can bet he’s never going to miss an opportunity to freakishly gargle the scenery. Functioning as a human terminator, Glover mows down anyone standing in his path towards Red and Avary doesn’t skimp on any of the extreme violence or grisly viscera.
Avary leans into the camp aspect here and plays everything with tongue firmly planted in cheek. At the same time, it looks like nobody told him that it wasn’t the ‘90s anymore and that the barrage of ‘jokes’ that are thrown at us are deeply, deeply dated and lame, including a climactic shootout in an art gallery that also doubles as a painfully obvious critique of bougie art world types that I’m sure he thought was hilarious.
Obviously Avary has never been the most politically correct filmmaker but whereas he skirted the edge with finesse in his previous outings, the cinematic world on display here often tips into tired regressive stereotypes. Racist and homophobic jokes are thrown around with glee and female characters are naturally given barely anything to do. But unlike something like Pulp Fiction, which couched its offensive remarks in a witty and grounded portrayal of what criminals were actually like, Lucky Day just wants to be an amusement park of bad behaviour with no real context or commentary on anything that’s happening.
There’s no doubt that Avary still has some style and certain moments do have an outrageous effectiveness to them. The strange end credits sequence also potentially puts a whole new spin on everything we’ve seen (although, I may be reading too much into it). But for the most part, Lucky Day just exposes how out to sea he is as a filmmaker in 2019.
But I dunno, maybe it’s just me. Canada seems to think he’s cool.