Director: Steven Soderbergh
Screenplay: Rebecca Blunt
Starring: Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Seth MacFarlane, Riley Keough, Katie Holmes, Katherine Waterston, Dwight Yoakam, Sebastian Stan, Hilary Swank, Daniel Craig
Runtime: 119 Minutes
Logan Lucky might mark the end of Steven Soderbergh’s short-lived retirement from feature film making, but the screenplay by first time feature writer Rebecca Blunt drips so heavily with the traits and quirks of his own style and characterisations that his lure back to the spotlight of mainstream movie making appeared too great and tantalising an offer to turn down.
Pitched aptly by an onscreen participant as ‘Ocean’s 7/11’, the vision of a multi-tiered heist movie dipped in the flavour of Middle American towns and NASCAR tracks is a depiction of a world often sneered at in popular culture or embraced to a level of narrow caricature. Logan Lucky instead uses the drawl accented trappings and hand-me-down look to endow more than just character to its world and key players, even while padded over the skeletal framework of Ocean's 11.
It’s a highly sympathetic portrait of the kind of downtrodden all All-American sincerity not often afforded such focus, with the key component being that the audiences inherent underestimation of the characters and their absurdly knotty plan is what will ultimately transcend expectation. Soderbergh aligns the film with the Logan brothers’ (Channing Tatum and Adam Driver) scheme without a hint of irony, but isn’t scared to allow the audience to laugh both with and occasionally at the farce that is their very real lives. The sound of the film rattles with roaring engines, twanging guitar rock and John Denver – with the latter delivering on one of the film’s most unexpectedly straight-faced and heart-warming sequences at a child beauty pageant.
With such goodwill in tow, the film is incredibly funny. Soderbergh’s visual eye is as strong as ever, cut with a sharp pace, gorgeously lit static frames and playing with the theme of economical and cultural imbalance in images such as Tatum’s blue collar labourer emerging from the dark underground pits underneath the glowing fertile shine of the Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Populated with an abundance of brilliantly written characters that wear their traits proudly, with the two leads specifically harbouring a greater amount of depth in that their heartfelt compassions and hapless desire to do right even though they are clearly in the apparent wrong with their planned robbery. The entire cast comes off great in both jokey vignettes and major sequences. Tatum and Driver are the calm yet burley tenderness at its core, while Riley Keough, Dwight Yoakam, Brian Gleeson and Katherine Waterston vie for screen time, with the exception of Seth MacFarlane’s awful attempt as a British businessman. But Daniel Craig walks away with the entire film as explosives expert Joe Bang in a redefining character role that looks like as much fun to play as it is to watch him lumber and cackle his way through every scene he’s in.
If there are down sides, then it’s that the narrative appears to reach an intensely satisfying conclusion, only to then continue on with the introduction of Hilary Swank’s Special Agent in an effort to further wrap the story up. It still ends remarkably strong and ambiguously, but the pace sags to a degree that is noticeable in the final act. There’s also a minor issue to be taken of the sheer amount of coincidences and mad risks that are being taken by the crew that rely heavily on circumstances and people making the exact right decisions on their behalf on a whim without much elaboration (e.g. how could they possibly know that the cake would be left in the vault?). But this may be a part of the film's point to undercut the audiences lowered estimations of the characters’ intellects.
Bottom line, Logan Lucky is just too darn charming, too darn funny and too well put together to hold many of the relatively small quibbles against it. Not so much a return to form as it is a reaffirmation of Steven Soderbergh’s tremendous talents as a director, and you feel the craftsmanship at work behind a movie that everyone involved really wanted to make.