“The Lucky Man” is an undercooked road movie that never effectively squares its mix of “Badlands”-style sweethearts-on-the-run crime drama with the religious fervor and hucksterism of the Steve Martin dramedy “Leap of Faith.”
The film follows childhood friends and now-longtime lovers Johnny (Jesse James), a coke-addicted preacher, and Rebecca (Mariana Paola Vicente), a materialistic beauty, as they cross the American southwest conning churchgoers and God-fearers into filling the collection plate on behalf of the Lord. The caveat: Johnny may actually possess the gift of healing, though it feels more sci-fi than spiritual.
But a series of wrongheaded moves tighten the screws on the trigger-happy Johnny and pouty Rebecca, sending them speeding toward the Mexican border to escape the law. Even for this volatile, impulsive, none-too-bright pair, their plan eludes logic. Meanwhile, Rebecca wants to get married, have kids and talk to her worried mother (Rebecca Flores), who considers Johnny “El Diablo.”
Writer-director Norman Gregory McGuire needed to better flesh out his inconsistent main characters, clarify their goals and motivations, and deepen their journey with more vivid set pieces and fewer clichés. Stronger, less repetitive dialogue and moments, a fresher portrayal of Latinos and a firmer hand with the film’s uneven supporting cast would have helped as well.
‘The Lucky Man’
Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes
Playing: Starlight 4-Star Cinemas, Garden Grove; also on VOD