In his review of Side Effects, Roger Ebert wrote, “Steven Soderbergh has announced that, at 50, this will be his last feature. Well, that’s up to him. This one brings together threads from a lot of his work. Crime. Sex. Complicated yuppies. Smart people doing heedless things. Corruption in high places. Soderbergh came, he saw, he conquered, and now he’s moving on.”
It’s such a shame Ebert didn’t get to see his return to filmmaking.
After directing Side Effects and Behind the Candelabra, Soderbergh decided to take a break from directing to become a painter. Known for directing the suave heist film Ocean’s Eleven and the excellent Magic Mike (based on Channing Tatum’s experiences as a stripper in Tampa) he has helped Spike Jonze with his brilliant film Her. And he also was attached to some projects during his retirement, including being the executive producer of two television shows—The Knick and Red Oaks—and the cinematographer for Magic Mike XXL (under pseudonym Peter Andrews). Now, he’s back to the director’s chair to return to his Ocean’s roots in Logan Lucky, the year’s best comedy.
Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum, a frequent collaborator of Soderbergh) has lost his construction job at the Charlotte Motor Speedway (the home of NASCAR) due to insurance liability issues. He was a football star in high school whose career fell short when he gets a permanent limp. In desperate need of money, he plans to rob the speedway during the Coca-Cola 600. Jimmy recruits the following people:
– His brother Clyde (Adam Driver), a bartender who lost an arm in Iraq.
– Their sister Mellie (Riley Keough), who works as a hair dresser.
– Demolition expert Joe Bang (Daniel Craig)—I know, awesome name!—who is serving time in prison. Jimmy and Clyde plan on breaking him out of prison to do the heist, and sneak him back in once it’s over without getting caught.
– And, lastly, Joe’s two whack-job brothers—Sam (Brian Gleeson) and Fish (Jack Quaid), who both claim to be experts in computers.
Once they begin the heist, it doesn’t take long for them to run into problems.
2017 is officially called “The Year of John Denver in the Movies”. Logan Lucky is the fourth film this year (the others being Free Fire, Alien: Covenant, and the overrated Okja) to use John Denver in its soundtrack. In the film’s opening scene, Jimmy talks to his daughter Sadie (Farrah Mackenzie) about why he’s a big fan of Denver. Given it also takes place in West Virginia, “Take Me Home, Country Roads” is the perfect theme song for the film; not to mention being used in a delightful scene near the end of the film.
With Soderbergh’s slick direction and cinematography and Rebecca Blunt’s wondrous screenplay, there are plenty of laughs and thrills to be given. The heist feels authentic, due to it not being an easy job and the complications these characters face. Kudos to the wonderful editing (going back and forth between the race, the heist, and the prison), there’s a possibility that this movie will get an Oscar nomination for Best Editing.
The cast is having a wonderful time here. It’s amazing how Tatum has matured as an actor; from being in misfires, such as G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and Dear John, to massive successes, such as 21 Jump Street, 22 Jump Street and Magic Mike. There is this charm he has that is damn near impossible to resist, even with that Southern drawl. Logan Lucky is the finest moment of his entire career. With the offbeat likes of Driver, Keough, and Hilary Swank as an FBI agent, the biggest scene-stealer goes to Craig as the bleach-haired, tattooed criminal Joe Bang. His accent never slips, and he is nothing short of a laugh riot.
I think the movie would be better off without Seth MacFarlane as the British businessman sponsoring his energy drink at the race. His performance isn’t terrible, but it feels unnatural to the rest of the movie. But—Soderbergh gets back on track with the main plot. Logan Lucky is great end-of-summer entertainment.