LOGAN LUCKY: This Country-Fried Ocean’s 11 Is Just As Tasty As The Original
Steven Soderbergh's Logan Lucky is one hell of an enjoyable ride that leaves you feeling lucky to have been along
According to Steven Soderbergh, he intended Liberace biopic Behind the Candelabra (2013) to be his final film as a director. Whether that was a ruse, or if the maverick with one of the most wide-ranging filmographies out there really intended to abandon the director’s chair, remains to be seen, as his so-called retirement has come to an end after a mere four years. Though, he did spend a large chunk of that time directing, editing and shooting every episode of The Knick for Cinemax, so it’s not like he was just sitting back and polishing his Oscar.
Fortunately for the film-going public, Soderbergh has marked his return to the big screen with Logan Lucky, a high-octane heist film reminiscent of his celebrated Ocean’s Trilogy, but with an added aroma of burnt rubber and cheap beer. Armed with a wickedly funny script by mysterious new writer Rebecca Blunt (which may or may not be a pseudonym for Soderbergh, his wife Jules Asner, or someone else entirely), Soderbergh guides his all-star cast through an outlandish plan to rob Charlotte Motor Speedway during NASCAR’s famous Coca-Cola 600. The result is one hell of an enjoyable ride that leaves you feeling lucky to have been along.
Jimmy Logan (Magic Mike himself, Channing Tatum) was supposed to make it big in the NFL. But, thanks to an injury, he now spends his days limping around construction sites and visiting his daughter, Sadie, a beauty pageant wannabe who lives with his ex-wife, Bobbie Jo (Katie Holmes), and her wealthy car dealer husband. When Jimmy is laid off from his job clearing tunnels beneath Charlotte Motor Speedway, and Bobbie Jo announces plans to move away from their tiny West Virginia town to open a new dealership, Jimmy decides to stop letting life walk all over him. Instead, he coerces his one-armed Iraq War veteran brother, Clyde (Adam Driver, a former Marine who, thanks to a medical discharge, narrowly missed being deployed to Iraq himself), and spunky stylist sister, Mellie (Riley Keough) to help him rob the speedway, despite Clyde’s belief that the town gossip about the Logan family being cursed is true (hence the film’s rather ironic title).
Thanks to the construction job he no longer has, Jimmy has pretty good insider knowledge of the pneumatic tubes that run under the speedway and transfer money from the bustling cash registers above to the secure vault below. All the Logans need is for someone to help them blow open the vault. They turn to Joe Bang (Daniel Craig, the best he’s been since first taking over as Bond), an incarcerated explosives expert, who insists his two dim-witted brothers come along as a package deal. There’s also a brash British energy drink magnate (Seth MacFarlane) and a health-obsessed driver (Sebastian Stan) to reckon with, not to mention a colorful cast of supporting characters that wouldn’t feel out of place at the midway of a Midwestern country fair. Like the best Coen brothers movies, almost everyone in Logan Lucky is pretty eccentric, but in a surprisingly realistic way; the characters feel like characters with a capital C, but not caricatures. It helps that the film is perfectly cast from its headlining stars all the way down to the most minor background player – and that said cast is in the adept hands of Soderbergh. Logan Lucky does not mock red states or the people who live in them, but reminds us that yes, they are people, too, with stories to be told.
Bang, Joe Bang
The film buzzes along thanks to the wonderful familial chemistry – banter, bickering and all – between Tatum, Driver and Keough. (Of the three, it’s worth noting that only Driver had not previously worked with Soderbergh.) Tatum’s pretty face and fancy feet mean he is underestimated as an actor by many. Fortunately, Soderbergh is aware of his strengths – his sly humor and backwoods charm – and casts him in roles that perfectly play up those qualities. Watching Tatum and Driver go back and forth, the former trying to be as positive as possible while the latter glowers behind a roadside bar, is comedy gold; Driver’s natural dourness is so much better here than in Star Wars. But one cannot forget Mellie, who could have been reduced to a stereotype, a dumb sidekick in tight skirts. As played by Keough – an actress who in films like American Honey and Mad Max: Fury Road mastered the art of playing smart, tough girls who are so much more than pretty faces – Mellie actually comes across as the sanest of the family. The only one who remains untouched by the so-called Logan curse, she’s also the best behind the wheel of a fast car, despite her impressively complicated manicures.
Yet the real scene-stealer in Logan Lucky is Daniel Craig, whose deliciously deranged portrayal of Joe Bang reminds you what an amazing character actor he is, and what kinds of movies he could be devoting all of his time to making if he was not James Bond. Don’t get me wrong, this James Bond superfan loves Craig’s iteration of the iconic superspy, but it is so incredibly clear in every frame of Logan Lucky how much more fun it is for him to wear Bang’s prison jumpsuit than Bond’s tailored suit. A bleached-out bulldog whose forehead is perpetually creased with devious plotting, the joy he takes in utilizing a surprisingly deep knowledge of chemistry to create explosives out of everyday household objects is terrifyingly funny. Watching him in this film, I could easily understand why he keeps threatening to quit the franchise that turned him into a global star.
Logan Lucky: Conclusion
Soderbergh is one of the few film directors who can and does move smoothly from weird art-house flicks like Schizopolis and Bubble, to Oscar bait like Traffic and Erin Brockovich to pure popcorn entertainment like Haywire and the Ocean’s Trilogy. While Logan Lucky falls strictly into the latter category, that doesn’t make it any less worthy of praise.
What do you think? Are you glad that Soderbergh emerged from his self-imposed retirement? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Logan Lucky is currently in theaters in the U.S. and the UK. For all international release dates, see here.
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