Director: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Katie Holmes, Riley Keough, Seth MacFarlane, Katherine Waterston, Sebastian Stan, Hilary Swank, and Daniel Craig
Director Steven Soderbergh retired about four years ago, citing that the Hollywood system has done nothing but treat filmmakers in increasingly “horrible” ways. While Mr. Soderbergh parted ways with Hollywood, he didn’t leave the creative seat; the director transitioned to the medium that has become more appealing to filmmakers, television. He directed all twenty episodes of Cinemax’s “The Knick” and served as executive producer of Starz’s “The Girlfriend Experience”. Soderbergh returns from the short-lived retirement with a hillbilly heist film that feels perfectly suited for his creative style.
Boasting a star-studded cast, one that features Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, and Daniel Craig, “Logan Lucky” is a familiar return for the director but the process of bringing this film to theaters is different than in his past. Using an experimental method of distribution, one that the director formed himself, the plan could offer an alternative for filmmakers looking for more freedom and control in their art. If “Logan Lucky” is the first example of what we will get from the director when allowed to work on his own terms, viewers are in for a great time.
Jimmy (Channing Tatum) has just been laid off from a construction job; it’s the final straw in a life that has consistently come up short. Jimmy has a daughter, Sadie (Farrah Mackenzie), who lives with his ex-wife (Katie Holmes) in West Virginia. Wanting to change the course of his life, and keep his daughter close to him, Jimmy recruits his brother Clyde (Adam Driver) and sister Mellie (Riley Keough) to help him with a robbery of the Charlotte Motor Speedway during the Coca-Cola 600.
Mr. Soderbergh has a way of establishing an environment and crafting characters that fit the mold; in “Ocean’s Eleven” he swaggered a Hollywood roster into a Rat Pack influenced heist film in Las Vegas and in “Magic Mike” he took Channing Tatum into the sordid backstage world of male strippers in Florida. In “Logan Lucky” the director does something similar, taking another group of recognizable Hollywood faces and making them proud West Virginians using all the resources they have to pull off something much bigger than they should ever attempt. It’s Soderbergh doing what he does best, and for much of the film the combination of interesting characters and caper constructing storytelling works quite well.
“Logan Lucky” feels familiar to some of Soderbergh’s work however it’s also somewhat different. Where “Ocean’s Eleven” and the subsequent sequels strived for entertainment and coolness, “Logan Lucky” seems to be making more of a statement about the state of the world even though it never directly implies it with dialog. The “steal from the rich and give to the poor” motif works well here, it also adds a few moments of comedy as The Logan family doesn't seem to be the brightest group of thieves capable of concocting such a complicated robbery plan.
The film is supported by strong performances from Adam Driver, playing a war veteran who is missing an arm and worries about a family curse, and Daniel Craig, giving a knock-out performance as a prison inmate with a specific set of criminal skills. But the standout of the film is Channing Tatum, playing a working class man driven to tough decisions. Mr. Tatum displays a quality here that is as much dimwitted as it is sincere, sometimes at the same time. It’s seen clearly in every moment with his daughter but also in smaller moments, like in one scene involving his brother’s lost prosthetic arm.
There is a moment in the film when John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” plays; everyone in the scene begins to sing. It’s an interesting moment that defines the film, an anthem for a group of people that means something significant, specifically to them. It doesn’t matter at this point if anyone else understands it, because the moment in the film has enough honesty and heart to make it mean something. That’s what Mr. Soderbergh does best in “Logan Lucky”, he makes this southern charged heist film mean something more than the silly premise might imply. Hopefully we continue to see more from the talented director in the future.
3.75 out of 5.00