Luck Be Dustin Hoffman Tonight: Luck - The Pilot
Posted on Friday February 24, 2012, 15:36 by Stephen Carty in Small Screen
While television was once seen as cinema's lesser cousin, the idiot box is now able to attract some major talent. Take Boardwalk Empire for example. The pilot was benevolently overseen by Martin Scorsese (who stayed on as executive producer); the impressive ensemble remains headed up by veteran character actor Steve Buscemi, and the whole shebang is orchestrated by one of the Sopranos' key writers, one Terence Winter. Arriving with a similarly-impressive line-up, the pilot of HBO's new horse racing drama Luck comes directed by Michael Mann, starring Dustin Hoffman and under the watchful eye of Deadwood creator David Milch. Like the horses galloping around the track, there's no shortage of pedigree here.
As you'd expect from Mann, the pilot is hugely stylish and sumptuously shot, and includes typical Mannian tropes like the badass in a suit (naturally) and an ultra-cool soundtrack (including Elliot Goldenthal’s theme music from Mann crime classic Heat). As you'd expect from Milch, it's a measured and tightly-knitted affair where multiple plot-arcs and character interactions criss-cross like an elevated spaghetti junction. Plot-wise, there's not a whole lot going on in this first episode, aside from Hoffman's 'Ace' Bernstein getting picked up from prison by his loyal driver, 'the Greek' (Mann favourite Dennis Farina, doing his usual thing), and a bunch of degenerate gamblers placing complicated bets at the track. For now, it's all about laying foundations.
The thing is, however, that while HBO’s best are typically slow-starters which require patience as we get used to the lay of the land and learn who’s who – like The Wire and Game Of Thrones for instance – Luck’s pilot is a particularly difficult series-launcher. Usually with shows that play the long-game, there are sporadic bursts of violence to keep the less-patient viewers interested until they’re hooked on the characters and storylines, but that’s not the case here. Like Milch’s Deadwood, you got to admire how the profanity-penning showrunner refuses to pander to audiences with easy characterisation or dialogue accompanied by a neon sign reading “Exposition!”. Even so, the result is fairly inaccessible to begin with.
It also doesn’t help that the audience is thrown into the world of competitive horse-racing head-first, so much so that HBO sent out a glossary of terms along with the screener DVDs. Feeling a tad lost at first? Here are a few tips: a “Pick 6” is where the gambler must pick the winning horse in six consecutive races; and a “Bug Boy” is an apprentice jockey. Anything else, you’ll have to figure out for yourself. Pace-wise, the opening instalment is often slow, but interestingly this serves to build up the anticipation till race time.
Though pilots tend to centre on their main character in order to provide us with an anchor while the other players are introduced, here Dustin Hoffman has surprisingly little screen-time. That said, he’s magnetic whenever present as the slick-haired former kingpin with a score to settle, and the ensemble is impressive throughout, from Nick Nolte’s growling owner to John Ortiz’s hostile trainer.
So overall, a slow and difficult pilot, but one which, given the talent assembled, should blossom into a rich, layered and dense series. We hope. Reports have suggested that the pace picks up dramatically from the fourth episode onwards (like The Wire, perhaps), and if nothing else, the equine drama at least provides something different given that nearly every other show on the box revolves around some combination of cops, vampires and forensic scientists. What about you? Which way are you hedging your bets with Milch's latest?
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Posted on Friday February 24, 2012, 20:29
I tried to watch the pilot. I fell asleep.
Bring on Game Of Thrones...
Posted on Friday February 24, 2012, 23:49
First fifthen minutes are hard to keep attention but second half is good, pretty good.
Posted on Saturday February 25, 2012, 15:12
I wasn't particularly hooked by the pilot, but I'll keep watching to see if it picks up. Given the talent involved it kind of has to...
Posted on Saturday February 25, 2012, 17:52
Definitely a slow-burner. Give it a few weeks and it'll really kick off I think...
Posted on Saturday February 25, 2012, 21:06
i had to do it in two stretches. Very dense. But, given that it's from Milch (and i fucking love deadwood) i'm gonna stick with it (for now)
Posted on Sunday February 26, 2012, 12:18
It would have been very difficult to take in if the pilot contained any more than it did, so i am glad that it is using the first few episodes to ease us in to the world of racing. It takes sme doing to understand the mechanics of the industry without the added hassle of too much plot. I have read that once the first couple of episodes have given us insight in to the murky world, it does step up a gear or three. I for one am looking forward to this show very much.
Posted on Sunday February 26, 2012, 20:38
Four episodes in and it's very impressive, if a little impenetrable. Grown-up TV.
Posted on Monday February 27, 2012, 18:03
I quite liked it - the filming of the racing is particularly impressive and I'm looking forward to finding out a bit more about the characters. And yes, it's a welcome break from vampires and cops!
Posted on Wednesday February 29, 2012, 15:19
i fink its absalute shite
to be very honest
Posted on Friday March 2, 2012, 16:33
A very slow start indeed, tho didnt quite fall asleep.. Willing to give it another chance to hook me, but it really needs to pick up the pace in episode 2... Im not a fan of horse racing at all, but the cast list in particular made me watch it so hoping it improves like Boardwalk Empire and GOT did after slowish starts!