Many of the best movies are those that have something to say. Your Lucky Day certainly does but uses the old axiom to “show, not tell” and offers a taut whirlwind of a film that delivers chills wrapped in a blanket of prurient thrills. 

The film’s epigraph, “Based on the American Dream,” isn’t exactly subtle, but it rather perfectly sets the film’s tone and tenor. Offering a wicked take on modern ethics in a world where anarchy rules, Your Lucky Day is full of loathsome characters living in a mini Stanford Prison Experiment, forming alliances and turning on each other. 

All of them have fallen short of hitting their particular REM cycles. There’s Sterling (Angus Cloud), a down-on-his-luck drug dealer; Abraham (Elliot Knight) and Ana (Jessica Garza), a young couple expecting a child; and Cody (Sterling Beaumon), a young police officer stopping to pinch a loaf. All find themselves in the aptly named Sip ‘N Go convenience store owned by Amir (Mousa Hussein Kraish) when Mr. Laird (Spencer Garrett) walks in and announces he’s holding a lottery ticket that matches the numbers of the most recent jackpot, worth $156 million. 

A character pulls a gun, and writer-director Dan Brown’s roller-coaster ride of mistrust and betrayal commences. As a standoff ensues over a secure future, everyone has dollar signs in their eyes and no one can be trusted. 

Brown adapts his own 2010 short into a feature-length film and does so with narrative flair if not a great sense of visual style. No, this isn’t the Dan Brown of The DaVinci Code fame, but it almost could be; the lottery ticket is his cryptex, and he employs characters with occupations that should engender trust … but really it’s that other thing. 

Brown’s script manages to stay one step ahead of the viewer in a well-worn genre, masterfully setting up one twisty development after another and creating a film where you want to guess who will win and who will die. Time and again, he somehow manages to pull the rug out.

Lucky Day is a scathing indictment of capitalism and the American way. The idealized terminology represents hard work leading to prosperity. In reality, it’s dumb luck (being born rich), taking by force or forming alliances that would make Jeff Probst shake his head. Brown manages to pull in multiple corners of society — privileged white men, immigrant people of color eyeing a better life, an interracial couple looking to start a new life together, and cops with a shady background. All are looking for a score.

The actors are competent if not gripping. Garza has the potential to be a real player in the coming years, Garrett is a longtime veteran character actor dating back to the early 1990s and Jason O’Mara is recognizable from The Man in the High Castle and Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Cloud recently appeared in HBO’s Euphoria opposite Zendaya before his untimely death earlier this year. He’s the film’s linchpin, carrying its first half and driving its action. His work in this film is a sobering reflection of what could have been.. 

There are a few inconsistencies to look past to allow the film to work. Modern ticket-tracking procedures would likely cause the events of this film to quickly unravel, and given a few of the film’s events, it seems unlikely what happens in the Sip ‘N Go would stay there for long. 

But still, Your Lucky Day is a searing, biting thriller that keeps you guessing, an under-the-radar gem of a film that makes up for in pluck and grit what it lacks in real star power. It’s a strong portrait of modern America, told through the lens of those who are perhaps the most downtrodden and driven into a system of greed and betrayal.