Despite retiring after releasing Magic Mike XXL, Steven Soderbergh has returned to the director’s chair for another big-screen offering in the form of Logan Lucky, a film that is described (and referenced in the actual film, no less) as “Ocean’s 7-11,” which is quite possibly the best and funniest manner that I have heard regarding the description of the film.
Channing Tatum re-unites with director Soderbergh to star as Jimmy Logan, a divorcee who still continues to spend time with his young daughter despite losing his job and pretty much everything else in his life. With the aid of his brother Clyde (Adam Driver) and an incarcerated felon known as Joe Bang (Daniel Craig), Jimmy hatches a masterful plot to rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway during their huge Coca-Cola 600 race. In order to do so, Jimmy will also have to work with Joe’s intellectually devoid brothers (Brian Gleeson & Jack Quaid), fend off an arrogant entrepreneur named Max (Seth MacFarlane) and along with his sister Mellie (Riley Keough) he must also deal with his ex-wife (Katie Holmes) and her insufferable husband (David Denman).
The film above all else can be boiled down to one word – FUN. The entire film is an absolute blast from start to finish while maintaining the necessary logic and character development to make it a wickedly funny and smart movie as well. Starting off with Channing Tatum delivering yet another strong showing in a lead performance as the slow but well-meaning Jimmy to Adam Driver’s dim-witted one-armed bartender character who delivers each line with careful pauses and dead-eyed drollness. Others in the cast are quite good as well – Daniel Craig plays against type as Joe Bang and it pays off in spades while Seth MacFarlane plays a funny over-the-top role and Dwight Yoakam gets a number of laughs as the incompetent prison warden who is perhaps too proud of his own work than is good for him.
If the film has any flaws they are minor – there isn’t a lot of time to explore every single character in great depth and so a few are represented in a little less than ideal fashion. All of the post-heist material does drag on for a little too long as well but it is still filled with some great material including a tender father/daughter moment that was surprisingly genuine and effective.
What is interesting about the film is that it kind of mocks the redneck culture it represents while celebrating it at the same time and that can only be credited to the actors themselves as well as the excellent script. It doesn’t hurt that Soderbergh is especially adept at the ‘heist’ movie as his panache and directorial flare improved what could’ve been a run-of-the-mill movie like Ocean’s Eleven and he continues to excel at the genre in this one. Despite there being several details being thrown at the viewer all at once, the film is never really confusing and anything that may not be clear at first is sure to be explained or explored as the film continues its frenetic pace. Soderbergh also has the ability to deliver expected scenes or moments in a film like this and still somehow make them seem fresh or unique in some way.
Soderbergh went a long way in making sure that the film was 100% his own: he financed the film, “wrote it” (there is a credited screenwriter but many people think that either Soderbergh or his wife were the real screenwriter(s) with a pen name) and controlled the entire aspects of marketing and release in an attempt to open the doors to other filmmakers to try the same. It is unfortunate that despite the terrific reviews this film is receiving, it is not exactly making a splash at the box office and may make it difficult for other filmmakers to try a similar method in the near future. With all of that being said, it is still a tremendous success quality-wise as Soderbergh continues to prove his salt as a director and has another awesome piece of celluloid on his record.
Less than * (Actively offensive to one’s intelligence)
* (Brutal; bottom-of-the-barrel)
** (Some elements keep it from being awful but still not very good)
*** (Completely watchable; a rental as old-timers might say)
**** (Great film with a few things here and there keeping it from being perfect)
***** (Flawless; a true achievement)