“Your Lucky Day” is a tense, thrilling morality play that’s both a captivating bottle horror and a smart skewering of the American dream.
Writer/director Dan Brown first got the idea for what would become his new feature film Your Lucky Day from a one-panel comic he created for his one-a-day calendar.
A clever, darkly funny concept evolved into a short film he flippantly uploaded to Vimeo one day to avoid the frustration and rejection of submitting it to film festivals.
To his utter shock and dismay, the short about a young thug (Rider Strong) who happens to be in a convenience store when an old man discovers he’s just hit a $156 million jackpot blew up and became a viral sensation, amassing over a million views in a matter of days.
This inevitably led to intense interest in having Brown adapt the short to a feature-length film. It was an idea he resisted for a while, feeling like the story he told in Your Lucky Day was complete and didn’t need expounding on.
Years later, Brown had a change of heart and began working on the script in his free time while continuing his full-time career in advertising.
After a series of heartbreaks and setbacks, Brown scored a serious casting coup by landing the red-hot Euphoria sensation Angus Cloud in the lead role, and all the pieces fell into place for his directorial feature film debut and a world premiere at one of the most important genre film festivals in the world.
Your Lucky Day is about the push-pull of ethics versus survival instincts, asking how far good people may be willing to go for a life-changing sum of money.
The late Angus Cloud shines in a role that he was born to play, a role that very much feels like an extension of the lovable drug dealer he played in Euphoria as fan-favorite character Fez.
Tragically, Cloud passed away at the age of 25 earlier this year, and Your Lucky Day only serves to deepen the devastating cut of that loss by showcasing a remarkable talent just beginning to blossom.
Cloud plays such a similar role in Your Lucky Day, as down-on-his-luck petty drug dealer Sterling, that it’s difficult to see anything other than Fez. But that’s not a slight in any way. It’s a stroke of casting genius, as Cloud helps create a “villain” who oozes empathy and sincerity, which effectively drives the film’s overarching theme home in a big way.
What’s that theme?
Morality is one vast, poorly lit gray tunnel through which “bad” people traverse on the way to redemption while “good” people pass through on the way to damnation.
What defines us is not some nebulous code of ethics we hold at our core but rather the choices we make, some good and some bad — some mistakes made with noble intentions and other acts of heroism or generosity belying selfish motivations.
What makes good people do terrible things?
The source of the most corruption and desperation is the root of all evil, a plague upon humanity that Brown announces in the first frame of the film with the title screen that reads “Based on the American Dream.”
Brown immediately sets the stage for his tense and thrilling morality play with a glitzy montage of consumerism and excess.
This is intercut with the introduction of our anti-hero, Sterling, as he’s being robbed during a drug deal gone wrong.
The desperate Sterling then enters a local convenience store with no malintent; he wants to purchase a drink and try to numb the pain. It’s Christmas Eve, and this particular Sip ‘n Go is bustling.
Behind the counter is the mild-mannered Palestinian owner, Amir (Mousa Hussein Kraish, Superbad). He’s forced to entertain the obnoxious, well-to-do white businessman, Mr. Laird (Spencer Garrett, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), as he checks his lottery tickets while dropping casual racism and classism.
Shopping for some ice cream to satisfy pregnancy cravings is a struggling young couple, piano player Abraham (Elliot Knight, The Boys) and his very pregnant waitress girlfriend Ana Marlene (Jessica Garza, The Purge television series).
Suddenly, there’s a shocking revelation. Mr. Laird’s lottery ticket numbers match the Mega ball, and he’s just won $156 million dollars. As he starts loudly celebrating, Sterling makes a quick and life-altering decision. Donning a makeshift mask made from a magazine and scotch tape, he points a gun at Mr. Laird and demands he hand over the ticket.
Unbeknownst to everyone other than Amir, another patron, a rookie cop named Cody (Sterling Beaumon, The Killing), has been occupying the store’s bathroom during the rapidly escalating chaos. He hears the commotion, exits the bathroom with his gun cocked, and fires in a frenzied panic, accidentally killing Mr. Laird.
A shootout ensues, and Sterling lands a seemingly fatal shot on Cody. As he tries to figure out his next move and keep his now-hostages cool and collected, he offers an enticing solution.
If the couple and the store clerk agree to go along with his story about an unknown black assailant, allowing Sterling to claim the lottery winnings, he will give them each several million for their troubles.
After a bit of wrestling with their conscience, Sterling convinces his equally desperate accomplices to accept his proposition that it’s better to be lucky than good.
As you might expect, the perfect plan goes horribly wrong at every turn, complicated immensely by unexpected arrivals and a not-quite-dead cop who manages to make a call to his ex-cop father (Jason O’Mara, The Man in the High Castle), who enlists his former partners to help clean up the mess.
It’s a twisty, thrilling, unbearably tense rollercoaster ride that’s difficult to predict and keeps you on the edge of your seat.
And for many viewers, that alone makes this a wildly entertaining and fulfilling watch.
For others who enjoy a bit more depth to their action-packed thrills, Brown’s compelling script offers plenty of that as well — with pointed commentary on everything from systemic racism to greed and class warfare to a grotesquely corrupt criminal justice system.
In one riveting scene, mostly improvised by Angus, Sterling attempts to answer the age-old question, “What would you do if you had a million dollars?”
For him, there are things he’d probably waste his money on, insignificant symbols of wealth and status that mean very little.
However, like the others immersed in this sideways scheme, he really yearns to be free from constant worry and fear. He wants relief from the kind of agonizing, nonstop uncertainty that plagues so many millions of Americans living hand to mouth and wondering how they’ll ever crawl out of the bottomless pit they find themselves in.
As a shady SWAT team descends upon the Sip ‘n Go, one bad cop condones the use of excessive force by decrying that there are no innocents inside; everyone is guilty, and everyone deserves what’s coming to them.
And while no one is innocent by the definition of the law, everyone has a reason for doing what they’re doing.
Everyone wants nothing more than a better life and a less bleak future.
It’ll make you question whether accountability is reasonable in a corrupt system designed to reward the guilty and punish the innocent.
While it would be easy to reduce the film to a simple message of “greed is bad,” this is a much more thought-provoking and challenging look at the nature of capitalism and the bastardization of the American Dream to benefit those already well-positioned for success while keeping the less fortunate shackled to generations of poverty and hopelessness.
The truth is, success in America is far more about luck than hard work, and for most of the wealthy elite, the only “lucky day” that really matters is the day they are born into the right place at the right time.
Your Lucky Day is a smart and poignant commentary on American ideals, but don’t let that scare you away. It’s also wildly fun and electrifying from beginning to end.