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By Merle Bertrand | March 3, 2004

While Trevor “Lucky” O-Donnell (Kirk Harris) didn’t exactly have the best of childhoods — his mother became a prostitute to pay for the drug habit which eventually killed her and her scuzzy johns used to beat young Trevor — he nonetheless looks back on those days with fondness. One would suppose that spending seven years in a state mental institution, Lucky’s home since a mysteriously unexplained murder, would make any grass seem greener by comparison. Yet, some of those childhood days were happy ones; especially those spent on a picturesque island off the coast of Gold Beach, Oregon with his puppy love girlfriend Sheryl and her brother Eric. So when Sheryl (Renee Humphrey) visits Lucky in the hospital and tells him that Eric (Matthew Faber) is dying of cancer, Lucky knows what he has to do. With just 88 days before he’s scheduled to be released, Lucky makes a break for it. He’s determined to bring Sheryl and Eric with him to the island one last time, and no one, neither Sheryl’s angry, uptight, and consumed with jealousy husband Matt (Darrell Bryan) nor Sheryl and Eric’s estranged father Lou (Ron Gilbert), is going to stop him.

Harris has gradually forged a career out of writing and then portraying just this sort of darkly driven, if decent-at-his-core character. As such, previous films such as “Loser” and “My Sweet Killer” have always been more brooding character studies than plot-driven narratives. The same can be said for “Hard Luck,” which can almost be seen as the completion of a trilogy. The difference here is that with Harris’ longtime acting and producing partner Jack Rubio at the helm, “Hard Luck” shows just a wee bit a bit more sentimentality than the earlier films. In Lucky, Harris’ archetypal slow-burning intensity shows a softer romantic side as well as even a few flashes of dark humor. The result is a far more likable brooding time bomb than earlier Harris characters.

Things do happen a little too easily for Lucky throughout “Hard Luck.” His escape, for one, is almost totally implausible — he literally just drives away — and he’s aided on his trek to the island when Lou intentionally holds Matt back on more than one occasion. Still, helped along by some beautiful road trip photography, “Hard Luck” hits all its marks and ends in the only way it can, which makes for a satisfying film…as well as provides proof that anyone’s luck can change.

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