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TV Reviews : ‘Dead Lucky’: No Winner in This Dark Thriller

Clearly, Great Britain has not succumbed en masse to “We Are the World"-style public altruism fever, if the wildly cynical BBC suspense film “Dead Lucky” (premiering tonight at 6 and again at 10 on the Arts & Entertainment cable network) is any indication.

As cheerlessly amoral as it is entertaining, this dark thriller centers around a nervous but nice young accountant, Martin Urban (Nicholas Farrell), who wins a massive amount of tax-free money--150,000, to be precise--in a football pool. Rather than invest the windfall, Urban opts to quietly give fully half of his bonanza away to needy cases of the elderly, sick and impoverished--a generous decision that results in confusion, suspicion, subterfuge and, ultimately, murder.

What a message! Wake the kids!

Predictably, some of Urban’s planned beneficiaries rebuff his donations, wary of strings that might be attached. That turns out to be the least of his problems. Urban has made the terrible mistake of not giving a penny to Tim Sage (William Gaminara), a client and former friend who actually filled out the winning entry form for him.

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Before long, a love interest appears on the scene, and any dimwit--well, any dimwit but the naive protagonist, that is--can guess that Francesca (Harriet Bagnall) and her boyfriend Sage are playing their victim for a sap in much the same way that poor Edward G. Robinson was hoodwinked by a similarly capricious couple back in “Scarlet Street.”

In adapting Ruth Rendall’s novel “Lake of Darkness,” writer-director Barbara Rennie shows a sure touch handling her actors and their purposefully mundane dialogue, even if the ordinariness on the visual end is unfortunate. (The film could use a noir flair, or any kind of stylistic edge.)

Parents may want to exercise the proverbial discretion--not so much on account of the nudity (very brief), violence (mostly implied) or barely developed gay subtext (the hero is latently homosexual), but mostly for the utter bleakness of theme. Suffice it to say that the only luck in “Dead Lucky” is of the bad sort.


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