Steven Soderbergh makes a triumphant return to film with Logan Lucky. Combining all of the elements audiences loved from his Ocean’s series as well as a Coen Brothers comedic sentimentality, Soderbergh’s latest film hits every right note for an immersively entertaining experience. Although he hasn’t made good on his supposed retirement from film, Soderbergh has clearly dedicated himself to steering clear of high-brow cinema in favor of entertainment for the common audience. Lucky does borrow from his own previous heist films and the ones that came before it, but this film is unique in its human, blue collar story and layered, dynamic characters.
Logan Lucky follows the true story of Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum), a single father and a down-and-out construction worker in North Carolina. Wanting to make a better life for his young daughter, a local beauty pageant hopeful, he enlists the help of his one-handed superstitious brother Clyde (Adam Driver) to help him carry out a heist against the local NASCAR racetrack — from where he has just been let go due to legalities with his bum leg. The story unfolds quickly from there as the Logan brothers build their Ocean-esque heist team, also comprised of their sister Mellie (Riley Keough) and Joe Bang, an incarcerated local vault bomber played by Daniel Craig in an unexpected tattooed muscle-man turn. With Joe Bang comes his redneck tweedle-dee and dum cousins Sam and Fish (Brian Gleeson, Jack Quaid) as the job’s unlikely IT guys. The zany cast of characters influence the plot from there, and make room for a host of other star-studded cameos to carry out the heist during the famous NASCAR Coca-Cola 600.
The script, written by the mysterious Rebecca Blunt as her first feature screenplay, is the linchpin from which the film flowers. Instead of spending an unnecessary amount of time laying out Jimmy’s plan for the audience, the plot moves organically with Jimmy himself. By showing and not telling, the film keeps its audience entertained through its expert pacing, and doesn’t give us a chance to question the fact that a blue collar laborer meticulously planned an incredibly involved heist all on his own within just a few weeks. That creative choice alone is also one of the main reasons that this film stands out among Soderbergh’s Ocean’s series, which featured George Clooney and friends as a group of experienced and semi-professional con-men. Here, comparatively, we see a rag tag team whose highest credential of education is likely a high school diploma or possibly one community college computer course. It is refreshing, relatable, and makes the hijinks all the more entertaining.
At the forefront of this southern blue collar team are Jimmy and Clyde. Channing Tatum and Adam Driver commit fully to their country bumpkin facades and cleverly capable undercurrents. It seems as though Soderbergh’s intentions with these characters and this story was to present a cinematic world that edges stereotype for comedic effect while delivering a truly complex and realistic look at the modern American south. Tatum especially carries this intention through in his performance. Although many would consider his dark turn in Foxcatcher to be his breakout role, his performance in this film proves that he has truly come into his own not only as an actor, but a burgeoning character actor. Driver, too, is a fully realized second, bringing innocence and charm to a man affected by the war and his family’s history of bad luck.
The major standout in the film is Craig as Joe Bang. Audiences will see him like they never have before, and he will likely have everyone scratching their heads to the fact that he is also our very own James Bond. Keough is equally impressive as Mellie Logan, turning in yet another stellar character performance after her standout roles in films like American Honey and Soderbergh’s The Girlfriend Experience. Additional appearances from Katie Holmes, Katherine Waterston, Seth MacFarlane, Sebastian Stan, Hilary Swank, Jim O’Heir, Dwight Yoakam, and many more will also keep viewers on their toes outside of the film’s already layered A story.
Soderbergh’s film moves like a bullet train through the complex heist and somehow manages to one-up what he accomplished in Ocean’s Eleven. The only hiccup to be found comes at the film’s final act, once the heist has been completed and the audience is shown the “what now” of it all. Blunt and Soderbergh do somewhat of a 180 in their expertly crafted linear narrative to do some backtracking, likely in order to end the film as a pretty package. It doesn’t work in the film’s, favor unfortunately, and exposes a sloppiness that the rest of the film avoids. In the film’s one anomaly, the narrative speed bumps to its finish line.
Verdict: 4 out of 5
Logan Lucky isn’t perfect, but it is undoubtedly worth the time and money. If one thing is clear, Soderbergh has fine-tuned his ability to tell an entertaining story with an appropriate amount of depth. It is no surprise that he was able to stuff his cast full of high-profile stars for even the smallest of cameos. Logan Lucky is an enjoyable way to end the summer movie season, capitalizing on the clever comedy and fast-paced entertainment we have come to know from Soderbergh’s acclaimed films of yore. .