I don't like horse racing and I think dude ranches are horse slave plantations. I think horses look sad and don't want to walk around on the same trail everyday with some yanking, kicking dope on their backs.
Yet, I still loved "Luck" (9 p.m. Sunday, HBO) because it's the kind of series the network does so well: it's character-driven, detailed and takes you into a world rich with stories and meaning.
"Luck" focuses on the world of horse racing and gambling, where luck is necessary, luck is made, luck is prayed for, luck runs out. The first person we meet is Chester "Ace" Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) who is getting out of prison out a three-year stint. He's picked up by his driver Gus (Dennis Farina). It's clear Ace has no plans to play things straight; Gus is fronting as an owner of a $2 million horse Ace has bought. The dedicated and shady trainer of that horse is Escalante (John Ortiz); he works closely with vet Jo (Jill Hennessy).
There's also owner Walter Smith (Nick Nolte) who seems spooked by something in his past. And there are four scuzzy gamblers Marcus (Kevin Dunn); Renzo (Ritchie Coster); Jerry (Jason Gedrick) and Lonnie (Ian Hart) trying to score big. Richard Kind's in this too as a jockey agent. You'll see plenty other recognizable faces during the nine-episode run.
I'll admit that "Luck" takes some concentration. It's authentic, which means the lingo of the gambling and horse racing subcultures is used and it's not easy to decipher. But it will come to you.
The casting is perfection, everyone is good, but I'll focus on Hoffman. His Ace is a meticulous man, a business brain who feels unappreciated and betrayed, and so has an explosive anger and a healthy distrust. The veteran actor never overplays, instead going for tightly wound, which is more threatening.
What surprised me most is that I could see the allure of the sport. There's something hypnotic in the mix of grace, power and danger of the horses in full gallop during a race.
"Luck" pulls you into a world you may never want to be any part of. I sat waiting for the inevitable tragedy, and when it happened (I'm talking about a leg snapping), it was quick and horrific; I covered my mouth. Yet I didn't stop watching. I was fully engaged and so it made sense.
But now, back in my own world, I still want horses to run free.