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Logan Lucky Movie Review

Logan Lucky (2017) movie poster Logan Lucky

Theatrical Release: August 18, 2017 / Running Time: 119 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Steven Soderbergh / Writer: Rebecca Blunt

Cast: Channing Tatum (Jimmy Logan), Adam Driver (Clyde Logan), Seth MacFarlane (Max Chilblain), Riley Keough (Mellie Logan), Katie Holmes (Bobbie Jo Logan Chapman), Katherine Waterston (Sylvia Harrison), Dwight Yoakam (Warden Burns), Sebastian Stan (Dayton White), Brian Gleeson (Sam Bang), Jack Quaid (Fish Bang), Hilary Swank (Special Agent Sarah Grayson), Daniel Craig (Joe Bang), Farrah MacKenzie (Sadie Logan), Macon Blair (Special Agent Brad Noonan), David Denman (Moody Chapman), Jim O'Heir (Cal), Ann Mahoney (Gleema Purdue), Jon Eyez (Naaman), Deneen Tyler (Jesco), Mike Joy (Himself), Darrell Waltrip (Himself), Jeff Gordon (Himself), LeAnn Rimes (Herself), Danielle Trotta (Herself), Adam Alexander (Himself)

 

When Steven Soderbergh announced his plans to retire from filmmaking around the time he turned 50, many had their doubts that he would follow through. By then, Soderbergh had already spent more than half his life living and breathing film. He had directed one of the quintessential works of the late-20th century indie movement in Sex, Lies, and Videotape, a film that would have been a deserving Best Picture winner in Traffic, and one of the most entertaining and rewatchable movies ever made in Ocean's Eleven.
So his plan to step away from Hollywood to focus on painting seemed comparable to Joaquin Phoenix vowing to retire and become a rapper in what was later confirmed to be a stunt for a mockumentary no one liked.

If 2013 was to be Soderbergh's farewell tour, it would consist of the well-reviewed character study Side Effects and HBO's Emmy-decorated Liberace biopic Behind the Candelabra. But would Soderbergh's love of film really only endure in the features found on his personal website, like lists of films he's watched and recuts of classics like Psycho and Raiders of the Lost Ark?

Turns out, Soderbergh's less widely reported remarks clarifying his retirement as a sabbatical were more accurate because after four years out of the director's chair, he returns with Logan Lucky, exactly the kind of movie you hope to see from the maker of the Ocean's trilogy and Out of Sight.

In "Logan Lucky", unlucky brothers Clyde (Adam Driver) and Jimmy (Channing Tatum) plot to rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Not to be confused with this year's dark Wolverine send-off (or its black and white home video edit Logan Noir), this Logan is an original heist comedy from a mystery writer credited as Rebecca Blunt, believed to be a pseudonym. It focuses on a family residing around the border of West Virginia and North Carolina. They include Jimmy (Channing Tatum), a former high school football star whose promising career was cut short by a knee injury, and his brother Clyde (Adam Driver), a bartender who lost his forearm near the tail end of his second Iraq tour. Jimmy has a beloved young daughter Sadie (Farrah MacKenzie) with his ex-wife (Katie Holmes), who has remarried into money (David Denman, still best known for his recurring stint in the early seasons of "The Office"). There is also a third Logan, Mellie (Riley Keough), a hair stylist whose wardrobe is full of mesh tops and brightly colored bras.

Clyde has a theory about the family's lack of luck, which may be to blame for Jimmy's latest misfortune: getting fired from his construction job after he is spotted limping and determined an insurance liability. Jimmy doesn't get angry. Instead, he makes a clear-headed plan to rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway, drawing up a list of rules to follow. The list helps Jimmy persuade Clyde to get on board with the plan. The two brothers then bring the plan to Joe Bang (a bleached blonde Daniel Craig), an incarcerated convict and explosives expert who is essential to pulling off what should be a multi-million dollar robbery.

Once Joe agrees to getting busted out of jail to do his part, his two redneck brothers also get involved, once the Logans give them reasons to make the robbery align with their own morality.

Incarcerated explosives expert Joe Bang (Daniel Craig) is tapped by the boys to gain access into the Speedway's money tubes system.

And well, we get another Steven Soderbergh heist movie. It's not George Clooney and company looking cool and outwitting Vegas casinos. But it's a similarly enjoyable experience, the most fun a Soderbergh film has been since Eleven back in 2001. His virtuoso skills as director, cinematographer, and editor are on full display here. While it's possible he's really "Rebecca Blunt" (which would be tacky, given the paucity of creative jobs for females in Hollywood), Soderbergh hasn't taken a feature writing credit since 2002's disappointing Solaris.
Still, his gifts as a director always enhance the storytelling and that is certainly the case here. Logan's story feels a little more like a Coen Brothers comedy than one of the director's slick capers, but the two classes are not that far removed (even the onscreen personnel has repeatedly overlapped).

Soderbergh provides something with a little more broad appeal than the Coens' irony-laden farces. There isn't the same intellectualism and subtext that make the Coens' efforts such critical darlings, but there is still intelligence and emotion to Logan.

The film isn't perfect. The final act seems to run about three times as long as it should. Main characters disappear for long stretches, while in one case a minor character (played by Sebastian Stan) gets clumsily introduced at a random time just so we know who he is later. But a movie doesn't have to be structurally flawess to offer a really good time, something Soderbergh himself showed on The Informant!. So, yes, the film's post-heist reveals aren't the big payoffs that, say, the twists in Ocean's Eleven were to teenaged me, but they don't stop the film from being just pure cinematic joy, with a tone and artistry that is pretty comparable to, but not quite as agreeable as, Edgar Wright's acclaimed summer sleeper Baby Driver.

The biggest concern for some viewers may be whether Soderbergh, the cast, and the mystery screenwriter are extending a middle finger at the Bible Belt or simply having fun with the lifestyles that part of the country produces. Yes, the characters here are simple minded, but most of them are treated with respect. The hillbilly brothers, one of whom prominently sports a "Dangerus" tattoo on his arm, may be reproachable and is anyone completely comfortable with the child beauty pageants in which Jimmy's daughter is active? But no one here is a complete caricature or void of redeemable characteristics. The joy that Joe Bang shows upon hearing the Logan brothers' prison break plan, a welcome respite from his life of striped onesies and low sodium salted hard boiled eggs, is impossible to miss. Likewise, there's a yesteryear sweetness to the John Denver-loving, working class Jimmy and one-armed Clyde, throwbacks who make up for their lack of schooling and worldliness with loyalty and heart.

In the comedies of Jared Hess, even Napoleon Dynamite but moreso his follow-ups, it's easy to ask if viewers are supposed to be laughing with or at the characters. Here, it's pretty clear who we're supposed to laugh at (Seth MacFarlane's pompous British racecar driver and the two hick Bangs) and also clear why we're rooting for who we're supposed to be rooting for. As it should, the heist itself subverts expectations and even keeps us guessing all the way down to the final scene.

Logan Lucky seems to have more mainstream box office potential than all fourteen of its distributor Bleecker Street's previous releases. Will the young, small studio be able to score their first true hit,
or will their lack of past success hinder this one's chances? In the summer where Baby Driver just crossed the $100 million domestic mark, it's really hard to say. Logan boasts more star power than Driver, but its reviews, though favorable, might not be quite as unanimous. Critics have seemed to make a bigger difference now than they have in past summers. So even if comedies are a tad more impervious to critical reaction than other genres, Logan might well need my colleagues to share my enthusiasm for this film to stand, even against such light late summer competition as The Hitman's Bodyguard and holdovers Annabelle: Creation and The Nut Job 2.

Related Reviews:
Now in Theaters: Wind River Detroit Baby Driver Dunkirk
Channing Tatum: 21 Jump Street Hail, Caesar! Foxcatcher
Adam Driver: Star Wars: The Force Awakens Midnight Special Frances Ha
Riley Keough: American Honey Mad Max: Fury Road | Daniel Craig: Spectre
Directed by Steven Soderbergh: Ocean's Thirteen Traffic Contagion Behind the Candelabra
Masterminds Hell or High Water Bottle Rocket Fargo American Hustle

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Reviewed August 18, 2017.



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