Logan Lucky **** / *****
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh.
Written by: Rebecca Blunt.
Starring: Channing Tatum (Jimmy Logan), Adam Driver (Clyde Logan), Riley Keough (Mellie Logan), Daniel Craig (Joe Bang), Hilary Swank (Agent Sarah Grayson), Seth MacFarlane (Max Chilblain),
Katie Holmes (Bobbie Jo Logan Chapman), Katherine Waterston (Sylvia Harrison), Sebastian Stan (Dayton White), Brian Gleeson (Sam Bang), David Denman (Moody), Jack Quaid (Fish Bang), Dwight Yoakam (Warden Burns), Macon Blair (Brad Noonan), Charles Halford (Earl), Ann Mahoney (Gleema Purdue).
Since he “retired” from directing movies in 2013, Steven Soderbergh has kept busy – directing 20 episodes of his TV show The Knick - on which he also served as cinematographer and editor – two jobs he also did for Magic Mike XXL, the sequel to the film he directed. And now, he’s back directing movies again, with Logan Lucky. We knew Soderbergh wasn’t really retiring right? He’s one of the prolific directors out his generation – there are multiple years where he saw more than one of his features hit theaters, so although he’s undeniably right about so much of what he says about the state of the movie industry, it always seemed odd that one of its major players would just step away. And yet, perhaps it was a good thing for Soderbergh to do that. I think that perhaps he was too prolific for a time – and he spoiled us into thinking he’d always be around, producing high quality, entertaining genre films better than just about anyone else. Looking back at some of my reviews of his work, I think I was certainly guilty of taking Soderbergh for granted. Perhaps the reason I liked Logan Lucky as much as I did is because, without having Soderbergh around for a few years, you get to appreciate just how effortless he makes a heist film like this look.
The film stars frequent Soderbergh collaborator Channing Tatum as Jimmy – who was once going to be a football star, but hurt his leg, and is instead stuck in his dead-end West Virginia home town – a failed marriage in the rearview mirror, and a young daughter he adores – but no work to support himself. His brother, Clyde (Adam Driver) lost an arm (really, a forearm and a hand he says) in Iraq, and now works in a bar in the same town. There sister Mellie (Riley Keough) works in a beauty salon. Jimmy hatches a plan to rob the motor speedway – he had a short term job fixing sinkholes underneath it, and found out about their pneumatic tubes that takes the money to the vault. He’s going to need the help of his siblings of course, but also of an explosives and safe cracking expert. This is Joe Bang (Daniel Craig) – who wouldn’t seem to be available to pull a job since he is currently in-car-cer-rated – but the brothers have a plan to break him out so he can help with the robbery – and then back in, so he doesn’t get caught, and is out in 5 months like planned.
To say more would be to spoil the fun, so I won’t – except to say that this is the type of film Soderbergh excels at – the film plays with that knowledge, directly acknowledging the Ocean’s 11 movies that Soderbergh directed, although the film (written by Soderbergh’s wife, under an assumed name) has a touch of Coen brothers in it as well. For much of the running time, you really don’t know if these characters are complete and total idiots, or some sort of geniuses. The cast – most of whom are not from West Virginia – have fun with their exaggerated, mismatched accents. It was smart to cast Keough, Elvis’ granddaughter, who with this an American Honey is showing herself to be a great actress – and one who can plausibly play Southern, without devolving into caricature (the rest of the cast does that to a certain extent, so Keogh works as a counter note). I loved everyone in the cast pretty much though – Driver is probably the funniest, and Tatum shows that move star charisma the movie needs in the lead role.
The film works like a well-oiled-machine and even if you think you’ve spotted a plot hole, you really haven’t – the movie just hasn’t gotten to that point yet. It’s not an overly deep or overly original film – but it doesn’t have that ambition either. It is precisely the film it wants to be – and the most fun I’ve had at the movies since Baby Driver.