Director: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Daniel Craig, Katie Holmes, Farrah Mackenzie, Riley Keough, Seth MacFarlane, Brian Gleeson, Jack Quaid, Hilary Swank
Cinephiles and movie critics alike were disappointed when Steven Soderbergh, the Oscar winning director of Traffic, Erin Brockovich, and the Ocean’s 11 trilogy, had announced his retirement a few years back. Thankfully that was a short-lived decision as he is back to his usual shenanigans with Logan Lucky, which reteams him with two of his Magic Mike actors Channing Tatum and Riley Keough. Tatum stars as Jimmy Logan who finds himself fired from his job working in a mine due to neglecting to disclose his pre-existing leg injury from his days serving in the war. To top it off, his ex-wife (Holmes) is threating to move their daughter across state lines with her current husband. Jimmy doesn’t quite have the money to help pay for child support and got his cell service shut off after he failed to pay his bills. He concocts a plan to pull off a giant heist at a race car track. He has a slight advantage after having worked in the tunnels below the track. He knows the layout and how the facility uses bank chutes to transfer the cash flow coming in. Jimmy can’t pull this off alone so he calls upon a small crew consisting of: his sister Mellie (Keough), his one-armed brother Clyde (Driver), incarcerated thief Joe Bang (Craig), and Joe’s two brothers. Mellie may be the only one with her head one straight, and unlike the crew in the Ocean’s movies, these guys fumble along the way with their plan.
For someone who has made a fair share of heavy films, Logan Lucky is Soderbergh at his zaniest. There are some obvious callbacks to the Ocean’s movies, but this time with more of a redneck twist given the societal backgrounds of the Logan and Bang families. Soderbergh may also be the film’s screenwriter posing as first timer Rebecca Blunt. I’ve also read that Blunt is actually Soderbergh’s wife. He’s been cagey about confirming her identity, but he’s known to use the names Peter Andrews when he’s the film’s cinematographer or Mary Ann Bernard when he’s the sole editor. Soderbergh also seems influenced in part by the Coen Brothers in terms of the film’s oddball characters and sense of humor. One could claim its stupid funny, but it’s quite smart when you think about the payoff and just how far Soderbergh is willing to take these characters. There’s a scene involving a group of prisoners all lamenting about Game of Thrones and the change of course the show has taken from the books. It’s completely absurd but priceless.
The Logan brothers don’t appear to be the smartest characters. Add in the Bang brothers, who have an even lower IQ, and you just never know what is going to happen next. There is an unpredictable aspect to the story where you just don’t know if they’re actually going to be able to pull off the heist or if their dumb shenanigans will get themselves caught. It’s a wild ride and a welcome departure from your standard comedy with these kinds of characters, which would result in a completely stupid movie with lame duck jokes. Soderbergh shies away from this as he lets you know that he’s in on the joke. The story isn’t all redneck and prison jokes. Blunt gives the story a B-plot with the family unit Jimmy is fighting for. His young daughter Sadie is competing in a beauty pageant and gives the story its true heart.
Much like a Coen Brothers movie, the ensemble is able to let loose and have fun in an unexpected way much like their director. Adam Driver is known to many as the villainous Kylo Ren from Star Wars or as Adam on HBO’s Girls. We’re seeing a full on comedic performance here as Clyde, the quieter Logan brother. It’s the kind of performance we’ve seen him dabble in before with Inside Llewyn Davis and continues to show how diverse he is with his performances. Daniel Craig plays right into his character’s name as the heavily tattooed Joe Bang. He’s wildly explosive and the furthest we seen him go away from James Bond in the last decade. Soderbergh turns to his current muse Channing Tatum for the lead. This is their fourth film together as actor/director. Tatum always does great work under Soderbergh’s direction as it gives him the opportunity to show off what kind of actor he can be as opposed to the standard heartthrob image we have of him. The film also boasts some unexpected cameos along the way that fit right in the film’s randomness.
I have no idea what Steven Soderbergh will come up with next or if he’s heading back into his retirement mode. Logan Lucky is a joyously fun ride and is the furthest he could get away from movies like Traffic or Contagion. He’s one of the best filmmakers out there regardless of the genre or story he is willing to take on.
Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? Soderbergh needs to ignore this whole retirement concept.
RATING: 4 out of 5 TICKET STUBS