We’ve all seen that the seemingly never-ending ubiquity of the cinematic phenomenon of superhero movies cross over the into the TV landscape recently, most notably thanks to Netflix, who have hit two home runs with Daredevil and Jessica Jones (both Marvel adaptations). Each one of them has an element of crime and in the case of Jessica Jones it handled the superhero thing with so much sensitivity and gritty realism that you almost forgot it was part of the superhero genre. Even though something like a Jessica Jones would sit very well on this site, I’ve decided not to go down the superhero route (I mean, how much can we possibly watch and review?), but now Sky1 has got in on the action and teamed up with legendary, 93-year-old Marvel icon, Stan Lee, for a new 10-part series set in London. It’d be rude to not have look.
The first thing that hits you when you start watching Lucky Man is the amount of recognisable faces as it zips about trying to establish itself. There’s James Nesbitt in the starring role as gambling addict cop Harry Clayton, and he’s joined by the fab Eve Best, Amara Khan, Sendhil Ramamurthy, Darren Boyd, Omid Djalili and the ever reliable Steven Mackintosh, too. You can’t knock the cast.
What you can knock is the dialogue and cliché-laden scenes and action movie stereotypes. There are casinos run by gruff Chinese gangsters with cool, detached, beautiful and dangerous daughters; there are mysterious women who wear black jumpsuits, ride motorbikes and are willing to sleep with our main character at the drop of a hat; there are chippy police partners who provide a grounded counterpoint to our troubled, loose cannon of a main character; and, yes, there are speedboats.
It’s like a Poundshop Bond and it’s like every other male fantasy drama you’ve ever seen, but with poor dialogue and a laughably old-school, cheapo soundtrack that wouldn’t sound out of place on Shoestring.
But I digress – let’s just go over the plot. This show is all about luck, and what would happen if one person suddenly had a lot of it as opposed to none at all. And don’t we know it – from the title of the show, to the theme tune, to copious snippets of dialogue (“Fortune favours the brave”, “I need all the luck I can get”, “Luck is like a revolving door, you just need to know when it’s your turn to walk through”), Lucky Man is certainly not subtle about its high concept.
The man needing the luck is Harry, who’s a gambling addict suddenly finding his debt called in by a spooked Chinese casino owner Freddie Lau (although he didn’t look that spooked when he called it in). He decides the best way to pay back his debtor is to go back to his casino and win it back (because that always works). Sure enough, he’s hemorrhaging more money on the roulette table until he meets Eve (another fine actress, Sienna Guillory) who sashays down the casino stairs in a revealing LBD and helps Harry win 70 grand. She’s wearing a mysterious bangle (the kind you find in hippie markets the world over) and when they sleep together and Harry wakes up the next morning, he not only finds that she’s gone but he now has the bangle is on his wrist. He can’t take it off and finds strange things begin to happen, mostly to do with luck and how he can suddenly get out of sticky situations.
This bangle comes in handy because Freddie Lau turned up strangled in an alley the morning after his final casino visit and he’s suddenly a suspect, or at least he’s being looked at with suspicion by his colleagues. He and his partner Suri (Amara Khan, often getting the best lines) get to work and find that Lau’s murder might be tied to another murder, that of a young stripper found on the banks of the river Thames the day earlier.
So everything is intertwined: Lau, Harry, Eve, the bangle, London’s criminal underworld… in fact Eve later warns Harry wearing this bangle is fun but also a bit of a curse and he’s to be careful because she was meant to give to someone else and that someone else is now after it. What a bind.
Despite its high-concept shlockiness, this is an element that suddenly becomes interesting. How does an addict, who always loses, deal with the fact that he can now always win if he wants to? Does that alter the thrill and the terms of addiction? I’ll be interested to see if Harry, with his new-found ‘super power’, will get bored with the unconditional nature of his impending success.
Aside from that, Lucky Man is a procedural wrapped up in a fantasy drama, so there is the prospect of some sleuthing and some twists and turns here. Just don’t expect anything as rich or interesting as Jessica Jones.