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Film Review: Logan Lucky (2017)
September 1, 2017
After a short retirement from filmmaking, Steven Soderbergh is back with a fresh new heist movie: Logan Lucky. Soderbergh’s frequent collaborator/male muse Channing Tatum plays Jimmy Logan, a down-on-his-luck construction worker who decides to stage a robbery of a NASCAR racetrack with his one-armed brother Clyde (Adam Driver) and incarcerated explosives expert Joe Bang (Daniel Craig). Set deep in the Southern United States, Logan Lucky relishes in a backdrop of beauty pageants, muscle cars, tailgate BBQs, twangy accents, and old-fashioned Americana. The film also features Riley Keough as Jimmy and Clyde’s tough-as-nails sister Mellie, Katie Hudson as Jimmy’s ex-wife Bobbie Jo, Farrah Mackenzie as their daughter Sadie, and Seth MacFarlane as an odious NASCAR businessman named Max.
Far more pared down and unglamourous than his ambitious Ocean’s film trilogy, Soderbergh presents a straightforward, conventional plot while still slipping in a few tricks here and there, be it character quirks, slick visuals, or ingenious problem-solving (gummy bears and bleach are apparently all you need to make a bomb, guys). Watching Logan Lucky, there are hints of Coen brothers-inspired sideways humour, poking fun at redneck America while also revelling in the culture. Character quirks are also reminiscent of one of Wes Anderson’s signature tics (Joe Bang seems to be lightly modelled after Harvey Keitel in The Grand Budapest Hotel).
Uncanny resemblances aside, the characters of Logan Lucky are deliciously wacky and lived-in, thanks to a solid cast. Craig, released from his James Bond scowl, looks to be having the time of his life as the bleach-blond, tatted-up Joe Bang. Tatum and Driver make for an oddly affecting pair of brothers, whose back-stories are slowly revealed throughout the film by others, namely Joe Bang’s younger brothers, a comic relief duo named Sam (Brian Gleeson) and Fish (Jack Quaid). Other minor side characters also get their day in the sun—from plump office secretaries to cool medical professionals and pathological deniers/prison wardens—to help fill out the story.
Soderbergh doesn’t try anything too visually or structurally unconventional in Logan Lucky, but the editing, cinematography, and plotting are still rock solid. The pace isn’t as propulsive as, say, Baby Driver (a movie that shares a few similar elements with LL) since the movie pauses for a few, zeitgeist-y jokes and asides (will George R.R. Martin ever finish the next Game of Thrones book?), but it’s still lurid, entertaining, and peppered with all sorts of hints and Chekov’s guns. It’s almost as if, like Jimmy Logan, Soderbergh just wanted to show us that he could pull it off (as if there was any doubt).