2017, R, 119 min. Directed by Steven Soderbergh. Starring Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Daniel Craig, Riley Keough, Katie Holmes, Farrah Mackenzie, David Denman, Seth MacFarlane, Hilary Swank, Jack Quaid, Brian Gleeson, Katherine Waterston, Macon Blair.
REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., Aug. 18, 2017
After a self-imposed hiatus from film, Steven Soderbergh eases back in with this deceptively breezy heist picture set in the Deep South. A director of absurdly catholic range, Soderbergh’s credits scatter to every wind. To single out a mere eight of 28 film credits: There’s the indie film lodestar Sex, Lies, and Videotape; drug trade exposé Traffic; experimental head case Schizopolis; a hypochondriac’s anxious-sneeze confirmed in Contagion; mixed martial arts adrenaline shot Haywire; new-millennium Norma Rae Erin Brockovich; new-genre invention – hullo, male-stripper-meets-the-recession! – Magic Mike; and, oh yeah, only the most stylish crime caper ever made, Out of Sight. Logan Lucky comfortably settles under the same umbrella of popular-slash-populist entertainments as the latter three, to which you might also add Soderbergh’s most famous franchise. Logan Lucky even connects the dots for you, dubbing its rural gang of robbers “Ocean’s 7-11.”
That casts Channing Tatum, then, as Logan Lucky’s Danny Ocean, if one somewhat deficit in the loosey-goosey charisma of George Clooney or, well, Channing Tatum. Tatum’s Jimmy Logan is a taciturn former football star whose career-ending injury marks just one more instance in what his brother Clyde (Driver) – a military veteran who lost part of an arm in combat – considers a Logan family long streak of bad luck. (Another step-in-shit? Having the misfortune of running into a doggedly unfunny Seth MacFarlane, bizarrely third-billed for his forgettable extended cameo.) So Jimmy decides to turn their luck around by enlisting Clyde, their leadfoot sister Mellie (Keough), safecracker Joe Bang (Craig), and Joe’s dimwitted brothers (Quaid and Gleeson) in the perfect score – knocking off the Charlotte Motor Speedway on the busiest NASCAR race day of the year.
The Ocean’s Eleven comparison isn’t negligible. There’s a déjà vu quality – or, less charitably, the slight off-smell of diminishing returns – to first-time screenwriter Rebecca Blunt’s assemblage of characters and plot, most especially in the way the heist plays out, cards close to the chest. You can almost feel the filmmakers’ gentle elbow to your side: “Guys! Guys! This is totally going to pay off.”
And pay off it does – just not as a thumping example of puzzle-piece plotting. Logan Lucky’s delights, instead, have more to do with the film’s generous depth of field: how its focus elegantly sharpens on character interplay, like the persnickety back-and-forth of Jimmy and Clyde. Or on a thematic thread, like the one rooted in geography, tracking Jimmy as he crosses state lines to work a job, see his child, calm his nerves on country roads with John Denver riding spiritual shotgun. Or on a Game of Thrones throwaway gag that is such low-hanging fruit, yet so perfectly deployed, that it makes a supersonic trip around the sun and confidently returns home the best joke of the movie. Or, more literally, on two helicopters touching down in the speedway in the far background of the frame, in a stunning shot crafted by Soderbergh but officially credited to his cinematographer (pseudonym Peter Andrews) that – hand to my cineaste heart – made me purr with pleasure. And that right there may be the nail on the head. Sure, Soderbergh’s soft re-entry to film comes speckled with complaints – I haven’t even mentioned Logan Lucky’s low energy, or its thisclose-to-caricature picture of rowdy-redneck America – but goddamn if he doesn’t sell it all with swagger. Heartfelt felicitations to Soderbergh on his rebirth of the cool.
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Marjorie Baumgarten, Feb. 8, 2013
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Logan Lucky, Steven Soderbergh, Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Daniel Craig, Riley Keough, Katie Holmes, Farrah Mackenzie, David Denman, Seth MacFarlane, Hilary Swank, Jack Quaid, Brian Gleeson, Katherine Waterston, Macon Blair