A rip-roaring comedy caper.
In many ways, Logan Lucky comes across as a not-so-subtle nod to the films that Steven Soderbergh made a name for himself in the mainstream world by directing. Specifically, Soderbergh’s latest feels like a distant, slapstick-infused relative to his Ocean’s Eleven trilogy, which maintains the same style and ingenious crime plot that were present in each of those films, but replaces Danny Ocean and his slick, professional crew with some lovable, redneck amateur criminals this time around.
The film has been billed by many as Soderbergh’s long-awaited directorial return, after embarking on a self-imposed exile from movies following the release of Side Effects in 2013. But to call Logan Lucky that feels a bit disingenuous, considering that Soderbergh has still found ways to keep himself busy over the past four years. Not only did he also release HBO’s Behind the Candelabra in 2013, but he’s directed several of the best-looking episodes of television to grace the small screen over the past few years with Cinemax’s short-lived period drama, The Knick. That’s not to mention, of course, that he also served as cinematographer and editor on 2015’s Magic Mike XXL after directing its predecessor in 2012.
But still, Logan Lucky is indeed Steven Soderbergh’s return to feature filmmaking form, and it should come as a delight to Soderbergh fans everywhere when I say that Logan Lucky is every bit as fun and well-made as any of the filmmaker’s other directorial outings. It’s part Ocean’s Eleven and part comical farce, with a whole lot of delightful Southern drawl sprinkled on top.
Based on a screenplay by Rebecca Blunt, Logan Lucky follows Jimmy (Channing Tatum) and Clyde (Adam Driver) Logan, a pair of down-on-their-luck Southern brothers who conspire to steal money from the racetrack (which Jimmy was just fired from) on its busiest day of the summer. Along the way, the Logan Brothers recruit a number of various neighbors and relatives to their cause, including their speedster sister, Mellie (Riley Keough), a convicted pyrotechnics expert appropriately named Joe Bang (Daniel Craig), and Joe’s cantankerous brothers, played by Brian Gleeson and Jack Quaid. Each of the characters have their own motivations for working on the heist, while Jimmy and Clyde are busy worrying about a supposed family curse that may or may not be affecting them, and which emerges as a recurring theme throughout the film.
Other stars like Sebastian Stan, Katherine Waterston, and Seth MacFarlane show up as different oddball Southerners. Although their relation to the film’s actual plot movement is minimal at times, they all give dedicated enough performances to help fill out the film’s believable, North Carolina setting. The only weak player in the film’s rather impressive ensemble, in fact, is Hilary Swank as the FBI agent assigned to track down the criminals responsible for the robbery. Speaking with a low, monotone voice and constantly-squinted eyes, Swank’s performance feels out of place when compared to the rest of Logan Lucky’s wide array of flamboyant and lively characters.
Tatum leads the film – in his fourth collaboration with Soderbergh – and gives possibly his best performance to date as Jimmy Logan, a man stuck clinging onto the anonymity of the pre-social media old days, while trying to become financially stable enough to be a good role model for his daughter, Sadie (Farrah Mackenzie). His relationships with Sadie and Driver’s Clyde emerge as the film’s strongest emotional threads, and Driver and Tatum do a good job at creating a history between the two brothers from their first scene together that makes their kinship that much more believable. They both give complex and understated performances in their roles, even when they’re threatened to be overshined by characters like Joe Bang, with Daniel Craig, in particular, giving a scene-stealing performance as the convicted former bank robber.
As with all of Soderbergh’s previous work, Logan Lucky looks better than a majority of the other films and TV shows that are released nowadays. His shot compositions flow into each other with a precision that not only makes the film’s style feel warranted, but give it a flashy and fluid edge that goes well with the central robbery at the heart of the film. But like many of Soderbergh’s other films, Logan Lucky isn’t without its flaws either.
Particularly, the film takes on an overly leisurely pace in its first half leading up to the robbery. While that time is dedicated to the planning of the heist and the introduction of the characters, it’s hard not to leave Logan Lucky feeling like its two-hour runtime could have been shaved down closer to an hour and 45 minutes without losing anything necessary along the way. The fact that the movie isn’t severely hurt by the slow pacing of that first half, though, is only a testament to how well-done and genuinely entertaining the rest of Logan Lucky is, with it having one of the best final acts of any film so far this year.