By Edward Copeland
So begins the recapping of another series at ECOF. As you can imagine, even though the pilot only runs an hour, I had to split this recap into two because of all the exposition. As I wrote in the preview Friday, the Luck recaps will evolve as I write them. Be patient. Each show finds its own style of recap. Reminder: My comments are in italics and parentheses. Luck opens with the release of the series' main character, Chester "Ace" Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman), from FCI Victorville Medium II in Adelanto, Calif., which lies a bit away from the fictionalized version of Santa Anita Park where most of the series' action will take place. We won't learn exactly why Bernstein was incarcerated for three years in the first episode, but that information will be parceled out as the show develops. Once Ace exits the prison, he finds his faithful bodyguard/driver Gus "The Greek" Demitriou (Dennis Farina) behind the wheel of his car, ready to take him home. "How you doin', Ace?" Gus asks his boss as Bernstein climbs into the back seat and sighs. "We should get me a tape recorder," Bernstein says. "Meaning what?" Gus inquires. "Meaning what? Meaning we should get me a recorder," Ace replies. Two of the series' best-known executive producers, Michael Mann and David Milch, take hands-on roles in the premiere, with Mann directing and the cast speaking that unmistakable sound of Milchian dialogue. "Your trees. How are your trees in the back yard?" Ace asks. "Good. Good. Thanks for asking. You know, just this morning I was thinkin' that it's probably time to take the wraps off the figs," Gus replies. Much like Gus' figs, many things that have been concealed will be unwrapped during the course of Luck's inaugural season.
"Alright, let me see your horse owner's license," Ace requests of Gus, who hands the card back to his boss. "I'm surprised the camera guy didn't ask me who I thought I was kiddin'," Gus laughs. Bernstein leans over the seat to address his driver. "Hey — hey — no ifs, ands or buts — you're that horse's owner," Bernstein emphasizes. "Yes. I got it. I understand. Understood," Gus replies. "You think you're the first front in history?" Ace asks rhetorically with a slight grin as the car continues to speed down the two-lane mountain highway. Farina is great from the start of Luck, but it takes Hoffman some time to get into Bernstein's skin, especially in the pilot, which apparently was filmed long in advance of the rest of the episodes. He starts out, as in the scene in the car, as if he's supposed to be some kind of tough guy, a role he's never been that convincing at such as when he played Dutch Schultz in the film Billy Bathgate. As the show develops, he gets better as both Hoffman and the viewer get a better sense of who Chester "Ace" Bernstein is. One thing that's unmistakable from the beginning is the language could only spring from the mind of Milch. His unique rhythms, while not 19th century period prosaic, still stand out in a modern idiom from other writers' work.
Recurring throughout Luck, especially in the premiere, shots focus on horses' eyes. Those beautiful creatures' orbs captivate you, even more than the majesty the animals project when seen standing in full glory. (Of course, part of me thinks that if horses's brains were slightly larger, they'd hate our fucking guts.) That thoroughbred leads us to the horse barns and shedrow of Santa Anita Park itself. A rooster crows, a groom washes one horse, an exercise girl leads another on a walk while still others perform morning workouts on the track. Gamblers begin filling in Pick Six cards for the day as a large monitor in the median the track surrounds announces that today's Pick Six winners pays "at least $2,250,540." Our view shifts to a different pair of equine eyes: Pint of Plain, the Irish thoroughbred "owned" by Gus Demitriou. The track's head veterinarian, Jo Carter (Jill Hennessy), currently checks Pint of Plain over. "His gut sounds a little slow," she informs his trainer, a semi-legend at the track, Turo Escalante (John Ortiz). "So see what's what," Escalante, who emigrated from Peru, responds. Jo puts on a glove and adds some lube. "Don't you wish this was you?" she asks him jokingly before she goes exploring. "Loquita. A mental case," Turo replies before being distracted. He walks over to Leon Micheaux (Tom Payne), an apprentice jockey from Louisiana referred to as "Bug Boy" as most apprentice jockeys are. Escalante grabs Leon's crop. "You don't need no stick," Escalante tells him. "Yes sir, Mr. Escalante," Leon says politely. Escalante instructs Bug Boy to jog the horse once the wrong way around the track to loosen him up for the afternoon's race. "I was telling Joey before how psyched I am getting to ride for you," Leon declares enthusiastically, referring to his agent as Escalante helps him mount Mon Gateau. "We'll run big with this horse today." Bug Boy's statement puts Escalante in a foul mood. "Is this morning today or this afternoon?" Escalante asks him. The question puzzles Leon. "Pinhead — is today this morning so far?" Escalante rephrases. "I guess, sir," Leon answers. "Then jog him once the wrong way around and shut up on what you don't know before I call Porky Pig on you," Escalante threatens, using his derogatory nickname for Leon's agent Joey. "Yes sir, Mr. Escalante," Leon replies as he's led out of the shedrow. Escalante returns to the stable where Jo is removing her glove. "I can't believe you got that one in a race," Jo says of Mon Gateau. "I can't believe where you put your hands," Escalante replies. "No displacement, no obstructions or entrapments. Pretty sure it's just a gas colic," Jo reports. "Leche (Spanish slang for Milk of Magnesia) I can give him?" he asks. "Yeah. Give him some Milk of Mag. Once he's alert, just get him walking," she replies before switching subjects. "You met the limo driver yet? The one who broke the bank in Vegas?" Escalante seems skeptical about who really owns Pint of Plain. "And bought this horse for two million? Probably, too. Think they really landed on the moon," Escalante answers. "What? Monkey business?" Jo inquires. "For three years, he's a limo driver. Who he work for before that these three years is in jail?" he queries. Jo guesses Michael Vick, but Turo informs her it was Chester Bernstein. "Gorilla business," Jo says. "A long trip from Ireland. The quarantine — this guy's entitled to a touch of colic, Turo," she declares. He requests she check the horse again that afternoon. As Jo gathers her equipment, she asks Escalante if he's been to Ireland. "No," the Peruvian replies. "You have a heavy brogue," Jo tells him as she exits shedrow. As Escalante speaks Spanish with another worker, we hear Etta James singing, "I'd Rather Go Blind." "Whoo, I would rather, I would rather go blind, boy/Than to see you walk away from me, child, no/Whoo, so you see, I love you so much/That I don't wanna watch you leave me, baby" Escalante gingerly pats the sides of Pint of Plain's head. "For two million dollars, you got some plain head on you," he tells the horse.
At another set of stables on the park grounds, an older man (Nick Nolte) dressed in beige from his pants to his hat steps up on the deck with his dog and doughnuts for his night watchman (Mario Roccuzzo) who sits outside one of the stables. "That's frosted. They said the chocolate covereds weren't fresh. How'd it go?" he asks the man. "The Big Horse got down. He slept all night, Mr. Walter. Even licked his tub clean," the night watchman replies before asking if "Mr. Walter" plans to bet that Pick Six that afternoon. He may refer to him as Mr. Walter as an old-fashioned courtesy, but his boss's name actually is Walter Smith, a longtime horse trainer who came to California by way of Kentucky. Smith not only trains but owns the animals as well now. The "Big Horse" the man referenced is Walter's prized colt Gettn'up Morning. There's a backstory involving both Smith and Gettn'up Morning's history that we'll learn about as the season unfolds. Smith's mind isn't focused on the Pick Six question, so his reply is less than definitive. His life focuses almost exclusively on Gettn'up Morning, to the exclusion of such extraneous matters. "I was wondering if in the last quarter the girl should loosen up and let him stretch the hell out," Smith says as his night watchman continues to talk about possible Pick Six payouts. "Yeah, let the big man show his stuff today," the man concurs with Smith. "Did I tell you that's frosted?" Smith, also known as "The Old Man," asks. "You did," his night guy replies. Smith gives him a pat and tells him to get some sleep. With a whistle and a click of his tongue, Walter gets the Big Horse's attention. "How ya doin' bub? Yeah, you know what I got," Smith says to the horse and we get another close look at one of those marvelous eyes. "What do you think? Do ya feel like stretchin' out?" Walter asks the colt. "Hey bruiser," Rosie Shanahan, the Irish exercise girl (Kerry Condon), says as she blows a kiss at Gettn'up Morning and puts down her gear. "About like last time?" Rosie asks Smith. "About like last time, but maybe you let him stretch out a bit in the lane," Walter tells her. "Great. 'Cause he's been pullin' my arms off," she responds. "He wants to run," The Old Man declares as he helps Rosie take her mount. Smith takes a seat in the bleachers with binoculars. "You're just hobby-horsing him," he comments.
Back in the shedrow, Escalante makes good on his promise and phones jockey's agent Joey Rathburn (Richard Kind) to complain about Bug Boy. "Why are you giving me a jockey who's running his lips about my business?" Escalante demands to know. "You're kidding, Turo," Joey says, expressing surprise from his spot by the track's rail. "I don't kid, you Porky Pig son of a bitch. He's chirping how he's gonna run him big when I told you that horse had no chance," the trainer responds. "A trainer like you throws us a bone, gives this kid a chance to ride for you and then — and then he's — he's gonna run his mouth on you?" an agitated Rathburn gets out, showing how he got his nickname. "Just tell him to shut the fuck up and loose lips sink boats," Turo tells Joey. "I'm gonna take him to the woodshed. Believe me," Rathburn promises as he stands beneath the entrance to Clockers' Corner. Meanwhile, Walter watches from the stands through his binoculars as Rosie begins getting Gettn'up Morning up to a good gallop.
Every track has them and Santa Anita is no exception: The serious gambler. Marcus Becker (Kevin Dunn) sits at one of the tables on the outside patio of Clockers' Corner, lots of forms and tip sheets spread about as he contemplates the day's betting plans. Marcus has to use a wheelchair and, periodically, take in oxygen from the mask that's attached to a tank on his wheelchair. Marcus currently eyes the day's 4th race when a member of his betting syndicate (not a crime syndicate as usually associated with the term, but a group of people who pool their money to make larger bets that cover more possibilities), Jerry Boyle (Jason Gedrick), joins him at the table. "I'm tapped," Jerry says as he sits. "You're what?" Marcus asks, removing the oxygen mask. "I'm tapped out. I'm tapioca," Jerry replies. "Yesterday you left the grounds a 390 dollar winner," Marcus declares. "Yeah, then I hit the Commerce Casino for a little poker fun after dark," Jerry explains. "With three days' worth of Pick Six carryovers worth several million dollars and you hand your bankroll to the ricers?" Marcus says, anger and disdain welling up in his voice. "Here's my picks," Jerry responds, sliding a napkin across the small table selecting horse Nos. 1,4,7 for the 3rd race; 5 for the 4th; 1,3,6,7 for the 5th; 2,3,5,7,8 for the 6th; 1,4,7 for the 7th and ALL for the 8th. "Fuck your picks, you degenerate prick — where's your money?" an openly pissed off Marcus demands to know. "Don't wind yourself up. Your face is going all different colors," Jerry says in his tranquil tone. "Fuck my face," Marcus responds, only to be interrupted by a coughing fit and the need to return the oxygen mask to his mouth.
In the stands, Walter continues to watch Rosie ride Gettn'up Morning around the track through his binoculars. "Oh, you're runnin' him around," Smith mutters as Rosie takes the colt to greater strides. Another member of the syndicate, Renzo Calagari (Ritchie Coster), shuffles on to the patio for the group's morning meeting. "Oh good. Now here comes the brain surgeon," a still pissy Marcus comments. Renzo holds up some cash. "Got my disability. Two hundred and fifty-five simoleons," Renzo announces as he hands the money over to Marcus. "Meaning against the Social Security he's gonna get, which is the mumbo jumbo these joints use to get around the usury laws," Marcus teaches his class. Gettn'up Morning's workout has captured the attention of eyes other than Walter Smith's. Joey Rathburn, pacing along the rail, and Jerry, still sitting with Marcus and Renzo, have noticed Rosie's ride on the Big Horse. Marcus pushes the napkin to Renzo. "That napkin's Jerry's whole contribution. Sick degenerate," Marcus tells Renzo. he took out a payday advance Walter puts his binoculars down and brings out a stopwatch. Rosie's ride continues to captivate Jerry. As she brings Gettn'up Morning to the theoretical finish line, Smith stops the clock and looks pleased. "Guess I still know a peach when I see one," Walter mumbles to himself. "You single the Fourth," Renzo says to Jerry, referring to his selection of only horse No. 5 in the 4th Race for the group's Pick Six plan. "I've got the Fourth semi-spread." Marcus examines Jerry's choice more closely. "A triple-bug apprentice hasn't won ten races in his life. He's gonna single a horse that's been — that hasn't run in two years," Marcus notes. From the racing form, we see that apprentice jockey's name is L. Micheaux and the horse that hasn't run in two years happens to be Mon Gateau, whose morning-line odds are 12-1. No wonder Escalante wanted Bug Boy to keep his mouth shut, but that's the reason behind the bet. "Yeah, but Escalante's the trainer," Renzo tells Marcus, who emits a sarcastic, "Oooh."
Leon slow rides Mon Gateau back and spots Joey. "I met Mr. Escalante in his barn," he tells his agent. "Oh yeah. How — How'd that go?" Rathburn asks as if he doesn't know. "Good. You know he's foreign. He's a little hard to understand," Leon replies, his Louisiana accent clear. One problem that will crop up throughout the series is that Tom Payne, the actor who plays Leon, hails from England and often that accent creeps out and he speaks in an unidentifiable dialect. Joey walks along the rail as the slow ride continues. "Well, you — you did some job," Joey tells his jockey. "I did?" Bug Boy responds with surprise. "P—Pissing him off with your wise-ass chirping about how good you thought this horse was gonna run today," Joey informs him. "I was just sayin' somethin' to say somethin'," Leon offers in defense. "That's what — that's what 'How's the weather?' is for," Rathburn suggests. "With a great trainer, I wanted to have somethin' to say," Leon insists. "Suppose he is making a bet, you — you think he wants some big mouth riding his horse?" Joey theorizes. Bug Boy asks if Escalante could be placing a bet, but the question only aggravates Joey more. "I—I—I don't know and if you want to know, I don't want to represent you. You're a bug. You ride everything hard and you don't chirp about what ain't your business," Joey instructs his client. "He could be on go, Joey," Leon whispers to his agent about Mon Gateau. "Moves like shine on a Saturday night." Rathburn makes another appeal, asking Leon to keep his mind right. As Leon rides on, Joey looks down the track as Walter greets the return of Rosie and Gettn'up Morning. Out of Joey's earshot, Walter says to Rosie, "11 and 2. He pulled up (stopped) at 23 and change." (23 and change is the time in seconds that it took the horse to breeze, or lightly run, the distance. Typically, horses are timed at intervals, in races or workouts — generally in ⅛ or ¼ mile increments. “11 and 2” would be the distance the horse ran, the 11 referring to furlongs. ⅛ mile equals one furlong. In the U.S., the classic distance is 1¼ miles. In Europe, it’s 1½ miles. Santa Anita's main dirt track is 1 mile long. Thanks to horse trainer Samantha Harvey of Alternative Horsekeeping With Samantha Harvey at The Equestrian Center in Yuma, Ariz., for helping explain that bit of dialogue for me.) As both the colt and Rosie pant, Rosie tells Smith, "Walter, listen, this guy's got nine more gears." Joey gets on his cell phone. "Ronnie, whereever it is you've flopped, find your coat, find your keys, find your car, get to the gym," Joey says into his phone. We don't see the person he's calling, but we do see his place, which has walls adorned with images of a victorious jockey, though we see Ronnie's wireless phone standing upright on a charger, its screen showing "12 new messages." Joey goes on, "Because if I didn't just see a Derby horse work, I'm a Chinese dentist. Plus the mount is open for you, Ronnie. An exercise girl was up. Yeah — yeah, call me back. Remember me — I'm y—your fucking agent, y—you drunken prick." I haven't spoken much about Mann's direction of this episode. It's been fine, but has been heavy on quick cuts after the initial Ace and Gus scene. However, I thought this sequence involving the various players noticing Gettn'up Morning that leads in to the great Joey-Leon talk that's filmed in a single walking/riding take shows Mann's most exceptional touch so far.
Jerry turns his attention back to his partners now that Gettn'up Morning has left the track. A hefty track security guard (Peter Appel) comes out of Top-O-The-Stretch (Top-O-The-Stretch is the name given to the betting area, either at self-service terminals that open even before the gates, and some manned ones later after the track opens for admissions) at a good gait. "Anyone seeking admission, please clear the grounds before the gates open at 10:30 unless you're a credentialed track employee," the guard announces as Marcus spins his wheelchair around to face the man. "Anyone morbidly fat? Anyone order a heart attack?" Marcus ridicules the guard (as if he has room to talk). "Yeah well, I wouldn't hold my breath. Oh, I forgot — you can't," the guard retorts. "When's the last time you saw your prick without a mirror?" Marcus shoots back. Jerry focuses the day's races instead of the insults. "Got the Pick Six in your crosshairs, Kagle?" Jerry asks the guard. "Yeah, I hold a few opinions," Kagle replies before getting a call on his walkie-talkie. Before Kagle leaves, he asks Jerry if he's going to "step up," but Boyle stays mum though Marcus looks suspiciously on the glances traded between Jerry and the guard. Renzo grabs Marcus' attention, telling him, "There may be more development at the coffee shop." Marcus seeks further explanation of said development, but Renzo prefers not to say. "A development of what type?" Marcus rephrases. "No. So if it doesn't happen," Renzo responds. "You're a moron," Marcus tells him, but he starts his chair moving when he sees Jerry leaving the table. "Hey — do not reach out to that three percent-a-week-charging bloodsucker," he warns Jerry about Kagle.
The drive from Ace's temporary Victorville residence ends as Gus pulls the car up in front of The Beverly Hilton, where Ace uses a suite as his home. When Chester exits the vehicle, he looks up and stares for a moment at his former stomping grounds. The hotel's executive manager (Spencer Garrett) greets Ace and shakes his hand. "Welcome home, Mr. Bernstein," he says. "If you've been partying up at my place, Maurice, they better all be out," Ace responds good-naturedly. "Oh if I missed one or two, you just send them down the fire escape," Maurice replies, adding that they've been preparing Bernstein's suite all week. "How about this guy?" Bernstein comments, indicating Gus. Maurice calls him "The Man With the Golden Arm," though he's referring to neither heroin addiction nor the Frank Sinatra movie. "I leave town. He hits a slot for five million dollars," Ace says. "I only do this for fun now," Gus offers since it would be unusual for millionaires to continue to serve as chauffeur/bodyguards. "I graduated, Mr. Bernstein," the young doorman tells Ace. "Good for you, kid," Bernstein says to the young man, patting him on the shoulder as he and Gus go inside. "So did I." (In a smoothly edited and executed segue, the glass doors of Ace's building turn into the glass doors where you enter the interior of the track's Clockers' Corner where they serve breakfast, seemingly without a cut.)
"There he is," Renzo exclaims as he, Marcus and Jerry enter the inside dining area. "Why do you sound so surprised?" asks a man in a yellow shirt and a light brown hat with his back to the camera. "I'm not. Because I never guaranteed you'd be here," Renzo replies as the man (Ian Hart) stands to greet the group. Jerry slides into a booth. "You gonna sit at the counter, you mind if I get by?" Marcus asks the guy obstructing his path. "That's Lonnie, Marcus. You met him once before," Renzo informs him as he moves into the booth. "And you're Jerry. We've met also, but I don't expect you to remember," Lonnie McHinery tells Boyle as he climbs in next to Renzo who suggests they all sit together there. Marcus wheels to the table's end. "You know what I still call you when I ask them how you are doing?" Lonnie asks Marcus. "Asshole?" he guesses. "The brains housing department," Lonnie answers. "Is it handicapped accessible?" Marcus inquires. Lonnie reminds Marcus where they met — a race day at Hollywood Park with Renzo. "You gave me a triple which I had to leave before I could play it," Lonnie recalls. "Does this story end sad?" Marcus asks in a tone indicating he could care less as he writes in a notebook. "No. No. No. I played it on TVG. 117 bucks it paid," Lonnie tells him. Lonnie's reminiscing gets halted temporarily by a waitress seeking breakfast orders. Once she finishes her business, the men resume theirs. "Now what would I always say to you?" Lonnie asks Renzo. "Let me once make half a score, I'll bankroll that genius gimp," Renzo replies. "Define — I'm afraid to ask — define 'half a score,'" Marcus seems slightly intrigued. "Off two women insurance agents paying me to fuck them senseless," Lonnie answers, a stack of bills in his hand wrapped by a rubberband.
Ace fiddles with a necktie in the bathroom of his suite before abandoning the effort. Gus calls from another room, asking if he's ready. "How'd you leave it with Escalante?" Bernstein asks. "That I'd call him from a few minutes out," Gus replies. "Your attitude with him — business. One hundred percent," Ace instructs Gus. Demitriou admits to being nervous about his planned meeting with Pint of Plain's trainer. Bernstein notices of pile of envelopes on a dresser that Gus explains are three years' worth of letters and notes wishing Ace well. "I wrote or called all of them back," Gus tells him. "You're friendly with Escalante, but you've got all the friends you need," Ace says, holding up his new microcassette recorder. "Spare me the hat dance," Gus pleads. "Just train my horse," Ace orders as they exit the suite.
Jerry dashes through the growing crowd at the betting windows until he finally spots Kagle and starts shouting the guard's name to get his attention. "Hey, would you loan you a thousand dollars?" Kagle asks Jerry. "What are you talking about? I'm not asking for a thousand," Jerry says. "Well. One policy fits all and from now on it's a thousand dollars minimum," the guard/loan shark informs him. "Why one policy? You're your own boss," Jerry points out. "Do I look self-employed in this uniform?" Kagle asks him. "As a shylock, you're self-employed. Does one pant size fit all?" Jerry says, sounding as if spending time with Marcus has rubbed off on him. "Yeah. Yeah. Good. Insult my weight," Kagle bristles. "Hat size, I said," Jerry insists, trying to erase his slur from the air. "It's a thousand minimum. Three points a week on the balance and I ain't chasin' you anymore for vig on a lousy three hundred dollars," Kagle makes clear. "Look, just let me take the fucking thousand then," Jerry says. "You do not qualify," Kagle declares. "Fuck you then and the Goodyear Blimp," Jerry spits as he storms off, but Kagle calls him back, holding cash in his right hand. "Mark my Pick Six," Kagle requests. A disgusted Jerry takes the money and starts filling in Kagle's betting card. Kagle thanks Jerry when he slaps the picks back at him, Playing in the background during the last part of the scene is part of Gil Scott-Heron's cover of Robert Johnson's "Me and the Devil Blues." "Early this morning/he knocked on my door/I said "Hello, Satan,/I believe it's time to go" Of course, if Jerry gave Kagle the same Pick Six selections that the syndicate has and they should pull off the win, the jackpot would be split — and you could count on Marcus being pissed. (Many thanks to Tony Dayoub for uncovering which artist was performing the cover for me. Check out his blog Cinema Viewfinder.)
The other three members of Jerry's group take spots behind the grandstand's last row since Marcus' wheelchair limits options. "I'll illustrate this degenerate's mind — why his vote's for singling the Fourth," Marcus says, referring to Jerry's picks. "Jerry, he's saying," Renzo tells Lonnie, in case he wasn't clear as to whom Marcus referred. Becker brings out the napkin as a visual aid. "Off form, it's completely open. He should really use every horse, but he ain't handicapping the horses, he's handicapping Escalante," Marcus elaborates. "Jerry's thinking, Marcus feels," Renzo conveys to Lonnie, as if he has to translate every word Marcus utters. "Escalante enters a horse away two years, all slow workouts, and he gives the mount to a triple-bug apprentice. The horse jumps up, who does that make the hero?" Marcus asks rhetorically. "Escalante, Jerry's thinking," Renzo answers, addressing Marcus this time. "We bet four deep in the Fifth and we're five deep in the Sixth. But you single Escalante. You bet only Escalante's horse and he wins, we just knocked out three-quarters of everybody else's bets. We're perfectly protected in the three races subsequent. And if we make it to the last, the Eighth race in which we bet every horse, we're in to a two million dollar jackpot," Marcus concludes, so excited by the strategy that his cough returns and it's oxygen time again. "Brains housing," Lonnie comments. "So where is Jerry? He feels bad because he tapped out in poker. He's probably got that fat fuck's fangs in his neck," Marcus guesses correctly about Kagle. Can't you hear Milch in that dialogue? "perfectly protected in the three races subsequent" "fat fuck's fangs" I love it. I miss being able to go to the track, not that I knew anything about horse betting. If I ever won, it was pure luck.
Ace enters the glass doors of another building and a woman steps out behind a desk in front of a case displaying wine bottles. She asks Bernstein how he is and if he's there to meet Mr. DiRossi. Ace confirms that he is and Nick DiRossi (Alan Rosenberg) spins on his seat at the lobby bar. "Oh. There he is. We're back to full strength," DiRossi says as he gets up to greet Ace and take him to his office, "So how you doin', Ace?" Nick asks, keeping his arms around Bernstein to guide him. "Great. You're doing real well," Ace comments, surveying the surroundings. This sequence is short, but Mann directs it in an interesting fashion. Though Nick and Ace walk and talk at a normal pace, the camera whizzes by unusually fast, giving the viewer blurry glimpses of the many bottles stacked in the display case. As I said earlier that Dustin Hoffman doesn't really get a handle on who Ace is right away, one thing he does do well is establish the physical side of Ace. Note at the beginning of this scene, if you re-watch it, the way Bernstein adjusts his cuffs and collar before he enters DiRossi's building. "The club is still strong. Last year we opened Atlantic City and Miami but the jewel in the crown is a club in Macau. That club is a real draw, Ace," DiRossi tells him.