Steven Soderbergh has always been one of the most interesting American filmmakers working today, and for good reason. After he was supposedly going to “retire” from directing films after the made-for-television Liberace biopic Behind the Candelabra, he comes back with another heist comedy along the lines of the Ocean’s films with Logan Lucky. But what made Soderbergh so fascinating among many other contemporaries was how he transitioned between making films for wider audiences and independent productions akin to Richard Linklater. And even when he made films for a more mainstream appeal, he still manages to retain the charm of his smaller productions – among many reasons Logan Lucky continues a streak of wonder from a diverse filmography. One end you’ll have a good time, another you’re finding some sort of odd experiment with his name on it – and Soderbergh somehow manages to remain intriguing with the many highs and lows of his own career.
Channing Tatum and Adam Driver star as Jimmy and Clyde Logan. Jimmy Logan was supposed to be a football star, and a leg injury had prevented such from happening. Clyde Logan lost his arm while he was serving in Iraq, and thus it was only suspected that the Logan family was cursed. As a means of reversing the curse, the Logans plan an elaborate robbery at the Charlotte Motor Speedway during the Memorial Day weekend, but not without the help of convicted safecracker Joe Bang as well as his own brothers. But mishaps ensue along the way, on the count of incompetence from all ends of the robbery. We’ve seen many of these heist comedies carrying a premise like such, and as made clear by the Ocean’s films, Steven Soderbergh is no stranger to the sort. But because these sorts of films helped gain Soderbergh a mainstream appeal, it was only fitting this was how he return.
After what supposedly was going to be his final theatrical film with Side Effects, Steven Soderbergh returns smoothly, just directing a heist comedy that’s supposedly along what we’ve already come to familiarize ourselves with in the Ocean’s films. But the case for Logan Lucky is that Steven Soderbergh is directing another heist comedy to play out as an anti-Ocean’s film, because it seems to be built upon the foundations of said films but without the glamour which made them so distinctive. And in that sense, it almost feels like what Soderbergh can do with such a story but on a much smaller budget. He isn’t taking Logan Lucky to go far beyond North Carolina, nor is he showing his own leads in fancy attire, it all seems to be a perfect display of Soderbergh just working small and independently.
The cast is thoroughly entertaining, exactly what one would have wanted from any Steven Soderbergh effort. But what’s funnier than seeing a bunch of hillbillies trying to pull a robbery aside from them supposedly foiling the operation at a step or two? These characters are made to look like stereotypes but it’s easy to admire how much humanity he puts into these characters. Channing Tatum and Adam Driver make a great pairing as the Logan brothers, we’ve also got Riley Keough and Katie Holmes coming in as pawns within the game, but the highlight is seeing Daniel Craig in a role unlike what would be expected of him. It isn’t just seeing Craig put on an accent that makes him the highlight of the cast, but the transformation he’s displaying given the stature he would be known for after having played James Bond. To say the least, it’s a hysterical performance but knowing the type Craig has established for himself, it’s even more impressive seeing him here. I’m also not so much a fan of Seth MacFarlane, but I can’t deny I found him entertaining enough here as he put on an exaggerated British accent, playing a character who goes against what would be expected of his sort – it’s this subversion I love Soderbergh for.
But for how much Logan Lucky still remains as entertaining as ever, it isn’t without its own hiccups. Soderbergh seems to be working with such tight material and gets it all from his cast, but then there’s another plotline that suddenly brings in Hillary Swank and it seems completely unnecessary. And quickly after that, the movie just starts meandering up until we finally see everyone together again at the bar where Clyde Logan works. I wouldn’t mind this so much if it came far earlier, and seemed to play of much importance to the actual story, because what it brings out is an extra 20 minutes that end up feeling more awkward and only leave one waiting for the actual ending. Steven Soderbergh has already established Logan Lucky as a tightly structured heist comedy, but I’m still confused about what did he intend with this segment because it doesn’t seem of much relevance to the story.
But nevertheless, this is sort of what I would have wanted as a comeback for Steven Soderbergh. He seems to know his audience well enough, and understands what has garnered him a more accessible appeal. And given how much effort Soderbergh puts into his own productions, it’s clear in Logan Lucky by how much did his break end up paying off for him. It was a well-needed one, considering how his “retirement” was shorter than an average break taken by an average filmmaker trying to piece their ideas together, and what Logan Lucky boasts is yet another highly entertaining entry into Steven Soderbergh’s long running career. And knowing what more he manages to hide within the surface of his own work, it’s only fitting enough that we welcome Steven Soderbergh back to the silver screen. We knew this comeback was inevitable, and it was what it needed to be.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Bleecker Street.
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Screenplay by Rebecca Blunt
Produced by Gregory Jacobs, Mark Johnson, Channing Tatum, Reid Carolin
Starring Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Seth MacFarlane, Riley Keough, Katie Holmes, Katherine Waterston, Dwight Yoakam, Sebastian Stan, Hilary Swank, Daniel Craig
Release Year: 2017
Running Time: 119 minutes