“America doesn’t care how you get your money.” This line serves as a dark thesis for “Your Lucky Day.” Writer-director Dan Brown’s feature debut is premised on the premise that in America, nothing—not family, not integrity, not personal safety, not the safety of others—is more important than getting rich. And once you’re rich, nothing matters anymore, not even how you got there. You can pay to have lawyers take care of all that, as sensitive heist boy Sterling (Angus Cloud) tells his hostages at the start of the film.
Sterling’s get-rich plan is, to put it bluntly, short-sighted. He was among the few people who witnessed a pushy, racist businessman discover he was holding a $156 million lottery ticket in a Miami supermarket two days before Christmas. Also present are Amir (Mousa Hussein Kraish), the owner of the place; frustrated musician and part-time Nordstrom pianist Abraham (Elliot Knight) and his pregnant girlfriend Ana-Marlene (Jessica Garza); and, most importantly, a baby-faced cop, Cody (Sterling Beaumon).
Things go into chaos when Sterling gets frustrated after being scammed by some kids in a street corner drug deal and decides he needs that lottery ticket more than the guy who bought it. So he spontaneously sticks a porn magazine to his face and pulls out a gun. In the ensuing chaos, a shootout ensues between Cody and Sterling, killing the police officer and the “lucky” winner. Sterling offers those remaining a deal: if they help him cover up the murders, he’ll give them a share of his lottery winnings.
As it progresses, this ticket is bloodied and beaten up until it is useless – in any case, showing up with a piece of paper isn’t enough to get handed hundreds of millions of dollars. There are tracking systems, as Ana-Marlene, Amir and Abraham try to explain to their kidnapper/co-conspirator early on. But the promise of wealth trumps both logic and morality, and with some persuasion, the group decides to band together in the name of fairness and class solidarity (or so they tell themselves) and put Sterling’s plan into action.
During this exposition-heavy (and rationalization-heavy) portion of the film, Cloud acts as a kind of doe-eyed, tough-talking therapist/priest to whom the other characters share their traumas and insecurities. The dialogue is unsubtle and the circumstances are implausible, and if anyone other than Cloud were in his place it just wouldn’t work. But the 25-year-old “Euphoria” actor — who died of an overdose in late July — has such a disarming charisma that you can actually imagine people opening up to him, even though he was threatening them at gunpoint an hour ago has.
In Your Lucky Day, Cloud’s on-screen role is noticeably sad, and the film becomes much meaner when he abandons the narrative midway through the story. This is obviously where Brown’s 2010 short film of the same name ends. From here, the tension builds into a siege plot involving corrupt police officers, played by Jason O’Mara and Spencer Garrett, and Garza – best known for her television work with recurring roles in “Six,” “The Purge,” and “Penny.” “Dreadful: City of Angels” – proves to be the real star of the piece.
“Your Lucky Day” moves along at a captivating pace throughout, but it doesn’t reach its brutal potential as a thriller until two-thirds of the way through. Up to this point, the film is weighed down by the clumsy repetition of its central theme – which ties into a legitimate (and rather dark) thread in American culture, but doesn’t need the insistent underlining it receives throughout the film. (It begins with a title card: “Based on the American Dream.”)
The majority of the film takes place in a single location in Amir’s shop, and Brown and cinematographer Justin Henning use a variety of techniques, from low camera angles to splashing champagne on the lens, to keep the film visually interesting throughout. But there are sections of this film that are simply stronger than others – which is perhaps to be expected when a debut director expands his own short into a feature. However, you can’t blame an American for pursuing a dream. That’s what we do.
“Your Lucky Day” premiered at Fantastic Fest 2023. The film is currently being distributed in the USA.