Release: Friday, August 18, 2017
Written by: Rebecca Blunt
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Channing Tatum; Adam Driver; Daniel Craig; Seth MacFarlane; Katie Holmes; Riley Keough; Hilary Swank; Macon Blair; David Denman
Distributor: Fingerprint Releasing; Bleecker Street
Logan Lucky represents the first film from Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh in four years, since he left audiences divided with a convoluted pharma-thriller whose lingering side effects included, but were not limited to, headaches, confusion and pangs of disappointment. As if trying to course correct, he returns to more familiar territory with an Ocean’s Eleven set in the deep south, where instead of casinos we’re heisting our way out from literally underneath a NASCAR race track.
This may not be a story about Bonnie and Clyde but it is a story about Jimmy (Channing Tatum) and Clyde (Adam Driver). Even with their collective experience these feel like notable roles for actors constantly searching for ways to reinvent themselves. (We’ve seen Tatum do good-ole-boy before, but Kylo Ren with a southern drawl takes some getting used to.) The Logan brothers aren’t wealthy in material possessions and they’ve suffered their share of personal setbacks. Some even say they’re cursed, what with Jimmy’s dreams of playing pro football crushed by a leg injury and his younger brother losing an arm in Iraq.
Yet by the time we’re catching up with them, they seem well-adjusted. Jimmy works a construction job and greatly looks forward to spending time with his precocious daughter Sadie (Farrah Mackenzie) who is preparing for an upcoming beauty pageant. Clyde holds down the local bar at night where he’s mostly bored but occasionally gets to impress the odd out-of-towner — in this case a pretentious British nitwit effortlessly played by Seth MacFarlane — with his bartending “skills.” Tatum and Driver are clearly in no way related but their characters are undeniably cut from the same tattered cloth. They’re kindhearted, simple people who generally don’t go looking for trouble.
That is until the day Jimmy loses even this unsure footing, when he gets fired from his job working on the Charlotte Motor Speedway because of a “preexisting physical condition” that finally gets discovered. Later he is informed by ex-wife Bobbie Jo (Katie Holmes) that it’s going to be more difficult to see Sadie as they’re moving across state lines thanks to her new hubby (David Denman) landing a cushier job.
Pushed to the brink, Jimmy hatches a scheme with the hope of restoring some of his dignity. Money may not buy you happiness but can it at least buy you that? He intends to find out by Robin Hood-ing his way in and out of his old construction site, in the process siphoning off a few dollar bills from the elaborate network of pipes that shuttle money between the site’s vendors and the vault. He’ll be taking from the public and giving back to the very private sector. But he won’t be able to do it alone, so he enlists the one-armed Clyde and their renegade sister Mellie (Riley Keough) as sidekicks.
The framework is familiar and the action routine, certainly by Soderbergh’s own standards, but it’s with whom the director has surrounded himself that really makes the difference. With supporting parts also going to the likes of Hilary Swank and Macon Blair as detectives on the trail, Sebastian Stan as a NASCAR driver representing the aforementioned British bag-with-which-one-douches, and Katherine Waterston as a potential love interest, Logan Lucky boasts one of his most impressive casts to date. Six real stock car drivers appear in cameos — the recently retired Jeff Gordon most recognizable among them. But he’s not as funny as Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards who play state troopers of all things.
That’s not even mentioning the film’s crowning jewel.
In order to physically access the money, the brothers will require the services of a safecracker who goes by the name of Joe Bang (Daniel Craig). Seeing as though Bang’s behind bars, that part is going to be a little tricky. Luckily Soderbergh can make even the most contrived development enjoyable, here inserting country music icon Dwight Yoakam as a feckless prison warden to facilitate a critical plot point. The singer/songwriter/actor is clearly relishing the role he plays in this farce, but it’s 007 himself that really digs in. Ditching the Omega and the Armani suit for striped pajamas and bleached hair, his presence alone is worth the price of admission. It’s the kind of role that tells me that James Bond may well need Craig more than Craig needs James Bond.
The characters define Logan Lucky, perhaps in a way that no other cast Soderbergh has been gifted has before. His early-2000s adaptations of the Rat Pack classic weren’t exactly high concept, but by comparison Danny Ocean made you really work for your entertainment. This is a familiar heist thriller executed with a level of enthusiasm that’s just as familiar, but unfortunately an adherence to a certain formula leads Logan Lucky into a snag not even the well-prepared Jimmy could anticipate and/or avoid. A subplot at the end needlessly rehashes details of the heist as the detectives attempt to identity the culprits — a sloppy construction that causes an unwanted momentum shift and a pair of talented actors to come across rather amateurish.
In fairness, the Tatum-Driver-Craig combo is one tough act to follow. They’re the gift that keeps on giving, keeping this rural farce on the wrong side of the law but just the right side of ridiculous.
Moral of the Story: With colorful and unforgettable characters, the lackadaisical plotting of Logan Lucky is more easily forgiven. Even as the buzz wears off significantly towards the end, this is one of the more purely enjoyable flicks of the late season — a cold and refreshing <insert the name of an American pilsner here> on a hot race day.
Running Time: 119 mins.
Quoted: “Did you just suck off his arm?”
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Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com
Pingback: Month in Review: August ’17 | Thomas J
So was Side Effects his last movie then? Wow that is a long time….
I’ve skipped most of this except for the end mate, gonna go see it this arvo. Looks like fun, and I’ll always give Soderbough a chance, even though he has made some flicks I can’t stand.
I’m really looking forward to seeing this particular actors in these roles!
I shall return… 😛
Side Effects was indeed his last cinematic directorial effort but apparently he’s been keeping busy with other projects, on TV and stuff I think. A show that was recently canceled, that I’m now forgetting the name of — but yeah mostly he’s been out of the picture. I really enjoyed how he pulled the most whacky personalities out of a few actors yet kept a lot of it restrained. Lovable country bumpkins is how I’d describe the characters here.
Hmmm I’m guessing it bombed here. Gone before I realised it. Lookin forward to watching it though
*keeps close eye on interwebZ
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And welcome back Mr Soderbergh! Although he never really went away did he? The Knick was a great show cancelled too soon, but this looks great.
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Yeah, he retired for the length of a collegiate career haha. Not sure I can quite call that official retirement. Like when pro athletes say they’re hanging it up and then next season they’re back, just on . . . not your team.
Either way we got to this, I’m glad because this has an absolutely amazing Daniel Craig performance in it I’m waiting to hear your reaction to!
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That’s good to hear Craig’s performance is great. He’s far more than just Bond.
This was too clever by half for me. I expect that’s what Soderbergh was going for but the plot felt contrived to the point of farce. Also, was it just me or did the movie take a very weird detour toward the FBI investigation at the end? I totally agree about Craig, though, he was the best part of the movie.
All points I make in my review. I think we are on the same page here.
Sounds like a fun watch 🙂
It is that! A lot of it is conveniently developed for that purpose, but I was able to overcome a lot of the contrivance because of a redneck Daniel Craig. He’s awesome in this
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