Steven Soderbergh has taken time out of his retirement to bring us a new film. In that new film, Logan Lucky, he brings us his unique style to a comedy heist. For the director of Oceans Eleven, he didn’t stretch too far. Ultimately, Logan Lucky will be compared to the Oceans series on its comedy-heist similarities. Even so, Soderbergh crafts a film with its own voice that doesn’t deserve to be compared to anything. True to his approach, the veteran filmmaker is back, and just as relevant as he was when he stepped away.
Logan Lucky is Soderbergh’s first feature since 2013’s Side Effects. The movie is written by “Rebecca Blunt” which appears to be a pseudonym for the acclaimed director himself who has always worked as his own director of photography under another fake name. In Logan Lucky Soderbergh and all his aliases shine. His dialogue is razor sharp, the cinematography perfectly matched to its setting, and the direction is top notch. The story of the film follows brothers Jimmy and Clyde Logan (Channing Tatum and Adam Driver respectively) and their attempt to pull off a heist at the biggest NASCAR race on the circuit
Soderbergh inject a ton of fun and charm into a story that never feels convoluted or tiresome. The films pacing is stellar, and its near two hour run time never slogs. The accents are hokey at times, but the film never suffers, in fact it is the charm of Tatum, Driver and Daniel Craig who plays the criminal the Logan brothers hire to help them. Craig is a revelation as Joe Bang, the explosives expert whose quirky demeanor is seldom cartoonish. The southern drawl adds to Soderbergh’s sense of place which directly impacts how the audience views the film.
At the outset, Jimmy is laid off from his job. It springs forward the story in a fairly flimsy fashion. To that point, the motivations of the characters are thin. Smartly however, Soderbergh chooses to focus on the journey rather than the result as we dig a little deeper into the characters. It isn’t necessarily a story that warrants we learn every little thing about the Logan’s, but we come to care about them because of the way the script is written and the performances. The subplots never feel purposefully inserted to hold the audiences hand and show us why we should care. Soderbergh lets them speak for themselves. In most movies, the side story of Jimmy, his daughter and his ex-wife would feel inherently manipulative to force the audience to feel something. In Logan Lucky, we choose to buy-in because its an important aspect of the story.
The rest of the cast is teriffic and features the likes Riley Keough, Seth MacFarlane, Katie Holmes and some fun cameos. MacFarlane stands out in his screen time sporting a comical British accent as an energy drink entrepreneur. Keough and Holmes aren’t necessarily given the material to shine but the story isn’t truly about them. Holmes plays the ex-wife of Tatum’s character who’s precocious daughter Sadie is gearing up for a pageant. As for that pageant, the scene is a tiny bit distracting in its placement in the film. The movie moves at a quick pace and is slowed down by the pageant sequence. The narrative relevance of the scene is certainly earned, and it is a only a brief departure from the films feverish pace.
Soderbergh’s return shows that he is the type of filmmaker Hollywood has sorely missed in his four year absence. He has worked on television shows in the years leading up to Logan Lucky. If this film marks a return to the cinema for the Oscar winner, it is a welcome one. Logan Lucky is one of the best comedies of a year that seen some truly awful ones. This is a crowd pleasing movie that is sure to please a mainstream audience and the art-house folks. It is a wonderful film, and one can only hope it won’t be another four year wait for Soderbergh’s next feature.