Film Review: Logan LuckyFun, snappy and classically Soderbergh-ian delight with impeccable, 'Ocean’'s-like rhythms, shrewdly set against the everyday struggles of small-town America.
The slick, sophisticated touch of Steven Soderbergh has been dearly missed, but he’s thankfully back with the bracingly funny and delectably smooth Logan Lucky, a film plugged into today’s social and economic realities in ways more piercing than meets the eye. Soderbergh applies all his signature clockwork moves (and snappy editing skills) towards a fun heist film full of lovable oddball characters and thick accents subtly set against a timely societal backdrop, tapping the effortless beats of his Ocean’s 11-12-13 playbook. When he fires on all cylinders, your job is easy: Stretch your legs, relax and leave yourself in the capable hands of a director whose recognizable, elegant aplomb is both a source of comfort and a guarantee that you’ll have a grand old time at the movies.
A classically high-wired, casually cool Soderbergh comedy, Logan Lucky first and foremost looks and feels like a genuine pleasure for its cast members. You can’t help but sense their enjoyment in each other’s company and whip up a little fan fiction in your mind that envisions their becoming buddies off-screen, continuing to hang out in similar capacity: The looseness of the film’s terrific, pitch-perfect ensemble often transcends what happens onscreen (as it does in Magic Mike and all three of his Ocean’s films).
Written by Rebecca Blunt (a name that is reportedly a pseudonym for Soderbergh’s wife, who is said to have written the script), Logan Lucky follows a pair of down-on-their-luck, idiosyncratic West Virginia brothers who plan a complex scheme of robbery to make ends meet and settle personal scores. The one-armed Iraq War veteran Clyde (Adam Driver, continuing to prove himself among the finest actors of his generation) works a dead-end job at a bar and his recently unemployed brother Jimmy (Channing Tatum, equally compelling) tries to make good with his ex-wife (Katie Holmes) as well as be a respectable, present father for his young daughter. In dire need of money, the two decide to attempt a massive heist through the underground tunnels of the Charlotte Motor Speedway during a high-profile NASCAR race. In the process, they recruit their sister Mellie (Riley Keough), who is as knowledgeable about cars as My Cousin Vinny’s Mona Lisa Vito, and the incarcerated convict Joe Band (a laugh-out-loud funny Daniel Craig like you’ve never seen him before), who’d serve as the explosives expert of the operation. And no good crime flick would be complete without the suspicions of a smart cop. In Logan Lucky, the honors belong to a deep-pitched, hawk-eyed Hillary Swank.
The plot signposts are all there to file Logan Lucky under the all-too-familiar Ocean’s formula—from that comforting position alone, the film is a boundless pleasure to watch. But the story, with characters struggling against severe financial burdens and insurance battles, invites the willing viewer to take an additional, perceptive step, despite the glossy, fun package. With its morally conscious criminals, sidelined war veterans let down by their government and struggling parents and blue-collar workers seeking a second chance in life, Logan Lucky gently recalls David Mackenzie’s crime drama Hell or High Water, which also (albeit quite differently) portrayed a group of people stuck in the unforgiving hardships of everyday Americana, with the heart and wisdom to give its secondary characters indelible moments to shine. Logan Lucky has a similar sensibility in painting its big picture of small-town America, and even goes as far as weighing in on the healthcare debate with a character named Sylvia Harrison (Katherine Waterston), a traveling doctor who administers a free shot to a shocked and emotionally disarmed Jimmy—it’s clear he has never been blessed with a free anything before when it comes to basic medical care.
Whether or not the group pulls off the heist is not quite the point (although you’re watching a Soderbergh film, so take a wild guess). But what they do in the aftermath is what lingers. Logan Lucky loves its imperfect good guys with no good options and convinces you that we all need to cut them some slack in life. They deserve it.
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