Steven Soderbergh is back with a fun "hillbilly heist" movie starring some great A-list talent.
Steven Soderbergh is a weird guy. Not only does he retire at arguably the height of his popularity and commercial success, but he comes out of that retirement for a movie like Logan Lucky. It’s not that it’s a bad movie, in fact, I was highly entertained and found it thoroughly enjoyable. However, it’s not the type of movie that screams “I must come out of retirement to make this!” It’s no There Will Be Blood or No Country For Old Men. It likely won’t be considered for any Oscars (although a Best Comedy Screenplay Golden Globe nomination would not surprise me), nor is it revolutionary in any way. Which brings me to the question — when you’re relatively young and just kind of bored with your career, why even announce your retirement in the first place, when there is even a slight chance that you will come back out of it?
No matter, as I’m glad he’s back, and he proves that not only can he still keep pace, but he continues to evolve as a filmmaker, with Logan Lucky reminding me of the best Coen Brothers comedies. There is an inherent goofiness that is belied by true heart, good acting, a swift and clever screenplay, and world class cinematography and directing.
If you’ve seen the trailers, you know the set up, but for those that haven’t, it’s relatively simple: Recently laid-off construction worker Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) coerces his easily-led brother Clyde (Adam Driver) into helping him rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway, using insider knowledge gleaned from the job he was laid off from.
That’s it, you don’t really need to know more than that about the plot to be able to walk into the movie and enjoy it. Either you’re going to enjoy the goofy characters, as played by some of your favorite actors, and some that might just become your favorite actors by the time the movie is over.
My favorite of these was Joe Bang (as played by Daniel Craig), a self assured munitions expert that is locked in a state penitentiary. Craig plays the character to the hilt, without being a caricature. His brothers Fish (Jack Quaid) and Sam Bang (Brian Gleeson) fall directly into caricature, which is not always a bad thing, as they keep you laughing, but they are so goofy they are unrealistic. Daniel Craig plays his role with enough of a serious edge to make the character of Joe Bang that much funnier, when he goes crazy it’s not doing what you expect him to do, and you buy into the character that much more.
On the Logan side of things, Mellie (Riley Keough) is on Joe Bang side of characters in that she’s not the brightest, but she’s not an over-the-top character that goes into full parody. Bobby Jo (Katie Holmes) does fall into parody as Jimmy’s ex, but her role is not a huge one, she’s got a heart and doesn’t become a simple plot device to make Jimmy’s experience even worse like she could have. Adam Driver makes some interesting acting choices, I’m a big fan of his, and know he can play drama really well, and here, it seems like he’s making lazy choices as an actor, but as the movie goes along, you realize he was making deliberate choices for a specific reason. His counter-point is Seth MacFarlane as an utterly ridiculous character that is, in the end, a simple plot device, who did just make lazy choices for the broadest humor possible. Alternately, Hilary Swank pops up as another plot device with a bad accent. Still, they are the low point of a fantastic cast.
The only uneven part is that most of the actors know what type of movie they’re in, and they use it to their advantage, but a few play it too over the top and seemingly don’t have a gauge of just exactly how ridiculous they should be. However, enough do, and that’s enough to keep the whole thing chugging along at a nice pace.
There has been a lot of debate about whether or not the screenwriter Rebecca Blunt is real or just a pseudonym used by Soderbergh, and at the end of the day, I’m curious, but I see the Soderbergh all over this movie, whether it’s his script or not. The best, most surprising part of this movie is it does not turn out like you expect at any point, it’s consistently funny, and you realize that everything in this movie is deliberate. Ultimately, this compares with the best of the Coen Brothers comedies, which is the best thing I can say about a well made comedy starring a bunch of A-list actors who seem like they just had fun making a movie with a great director.
If you’re looking for a well made move that you just want to go laugh at, definitely go see Logan Lucky in theaters, otherwise, it’s probably not the worst idea to wait for a home rental or streaming experience. I was looking for something to go laugh at after a long week of work, so it was just what I was looking for.