Critics seem to love Steven Soderbergh. I personally don’t have too much of an opinion on the guy. I saw the Oceans movies when they were in theaters, but hardly remember them at this point, and I saw Magic Mike, which I remember feeling underwhelmed by.
Logan Lucky apparently marks a return from retirement for the 54 year old director. And for a someone spoken about as a modern day auteur director, it’s not particularly distinct.
The film follows Jimmy and Clyde Logan, played by Channing Tatum and Adam Driver, respectively. The two working class southern boys have fallen on hard times, so they plot a heist to steal a massive amount of cash from a Nascar race track. They recruit a team, an explosives expert and his dimwit brothers (Daniel Craig, Brian Gleeson, Jack Quaid) formulate an elaborate plan, and execute it, not without a few hiccups.
It unfolds pretty much exactly like every heist movie that was ever made. The film seems to dutifully go down a genre checklist, hitting all the marks. The powerhouse ensemble cast’s exceptional acting keeps it from being completely predictable. And though it’s little more than a new skin on a familiar body, the blue collar characters in a southern setting is a refreshing twist on a genre that usually focuses on suave black-tie clad socialites.
What was your overall impression? Was this unique enough to make the heist movies cliché worthwhile for you?
Well, Sam, in addition to loving Soderbergh himself, other critics also seem to love this movie! I have seen a number of Soderbergh films (Erin Brockovich, Contagion, Traffic, all three Ocean’s films,) and I find him to be an enjoyable but simultaneously uneven filmmaker. And I’ve never been compelled to rewatch any of his movies, which perhaps says the most. I didn’t know anything about Logan Lucky walking in — not even who directed it. And I don’t like Channing Tatum. He just irritates me (even in very good performances like The Hateful Eight and Foxcatcher.) Sorry Channing.
Yet — I had a blast watching this film. And a definitive yes to your question … I loved the hillbilly southern spin on the heist genre, and in fact found one aspect of this heist accomplished something completely unexpected. It hits all those checklist items just right for me, but upends my personal stereotype that anyone with a southern accent is less intelligent than the rest of us! While some characters exude stupidity, not so for Jimmy Logan, sister Mellie (Elvis’ granddaughter Riley Keough) and Joe Bang (Daniel Craig.) All three display heart and smarts, breaking some preconceptions and keeping me happily along for the ride. These criminal folks have a code and loyalty to family, so for me it was as much fun spending time with this crew as watching the heist unfold.
What about you Sam? Did you like the characters? Do you think the performances transcend the cliché?
The Riley Keough character really confused me. I thought I just wasn’t paying attention, but after talking to other people I think the film just didn’t properly introduce her. It took me awhile to catch on to the fact that she was a Logan sister. There were a few issues like this that I had, which falls into your description of Soderbergh as an “uneven” filmmaker. For instance, there is no specific driving purpose behind the Heist. Jimmy Logan’s ex-wife is moving over state lines with his daughter, and he just lost his construction job. So he generally needs more money. But for as to-the-tee this film is with the heist genre, there is no singular need the Logan brother’s have. The film’s pacing also falls apart in the third act. The plot runs it’s course, but the film doesn’t end. New characters are introduced (Hilary Swank’s steely FBI agent) and things previously hidden from the audience are revealed. These reveals aren’t particularly enlightening or transformative. They only serve to prove how clever the characters are, and how clever the film is. But the Logan brothers were already very clever, showing their cleverness was one step further was unnecessary, and frankly a bit confusing.
The third act confusion aside, the film is very fun! In large part thanks to the performances that – yes Brian – I do think transcend the clichéd plot. Daniel Craig is astounding. He completely transforms himself so much so that by the time the credits rolled I had forgotten he was Daniel Craig. I also quite enjoyed seeing two minor characters from my favorite sitcoms show up in supporting roles: Jim O’Heir (Jerry from Parks and Recreation) as Jimmy Logan’s sympathetic boss, and David Denman (Roy from The Office) as his ex-wife’s wealthy, but very likable, new husband. The whole film is speckled with really enjoyable bit players like these.
Logan Lucky is far from perfect, and I’m not sure it’s a movie I’ll think about much once I finish writing this review. But while sitting in the theater, I was thoroughly entertained.
I confess I am pretty much in love with Riley Keough so I paid close attention to Mellie from her first appearance. I loved her turn in American Honey (one of my absolute favorite movies of 2016. I’d love to revisit this movie with you Sam, to see if you still feel the same about your debut review.) And even with such close attention, I also felt confused, at first mistaking her for Jimmy’s girlfriend, and only much later did I realize the Logan’s were a trio. I think the third act is trying to make a statement about Jimmy Logan’s character, but uses an overlong and wildly overused trope to get us there. We just don’t need to see the “how it happened” flashback and this detracts from some of the fun.
But the heist itself and the characters made the ride so much fun … watching these basically good people bumble through the crime, and displaying surprise bits of good judgement got me past the flaws. Plus — I LOVE John Denver music! If you want an afternoon of escapist fun, go see Logan Lucky.
I give it 7.5 stollen one dollar bills out of 10 lost prosthetic hands.
I give Logan Lucky 7 John Denver songs out of 10 low-key prison riots.