Review by Paul Preston
Steven Soderbergh is back! It’s only right in all ways that he’s back with not just a new film, but a whole newly-designed delivery method for movies.
Long being one to rail against the studio system (often by simply not participating in it), Soderbergh is distributing Logan Lucky himself through his just-formed company, Fingerprint. The budget of the film itself is $29 Million so if it’s a modest box office success, it will actually reap big rewards to Soderbergh and the distribution company he partnered with, Bleeker Street. There obviously is a marketing budget, I’ve seen trailers and posters, but TV ads and other plans were scrapped until the final week or so to save money, and the much of the money they did spend to advertise was acquired by pre-selling the home viewing distribution rights for Logan Lucky to outlets like Amazon.
This all feels like a direct response to Soderbergh’s self-imposed retirement four years ago, when he was feeling stifled by was lack of overall creative control. He wanted it then and he has it now as Logan Lucky opened 3031 theaters last weekend. It’s good to have Soderbergh back (you should see everything he makes), but this effort is an uneven one.
Logan Lucky is about a two brothers, Jimmy and Clyde Logan (Channing Tatum and Adam Driver), whose family is struck with bouts of bad luck. After Jimmy loses his job working on a sinkhole repair underneath Charlotte Motor Speedway, he convinces Clyde to join him in robbing a safe underneath the race track during the Coca-Cola 600. To do this, they need a demolitions expert to blow the safe, that comes in the form of Daniel Craig’s Joe Bang, who they bust out of prison to enlist. The Logan brothers’ sister and Joe Bang’s brothers join in to create a sort of Logan’s Six.
The heist itself is fun. Rebecca Blunt’s script combines detailed plans with coincidence (which heist-designers usually count on – tune in to see if the Logan brothers’ luck changes). For me, the characters and tone wavered a little too much. Sometimes it seemed like Soderbergh was going for goofy, then other times it felt like he was trying to recapture the smooth and slick rapport of Ocean’s Eleven (albeit with a slower, more southern charm), even borrowing a similar score and using the songs in similar occasions (you’d think a Charlotte-set heist would employ different music). The characters were most to blame for this. Driver plays Clyde as an unhurried and cautious guy, but when placed in scenes with Seth MacFarlane’s manic British energy drink hawker, their dichotomy doesn’t do as much to say something about each character as it does make you wonder why MacFarlane is playing his character so big. Hilary Swank’s federal agent shows up late in the film and brings yet another tone, all steely-eyed and putting on an over-affected voice that was off-putting. Her unnatural stare and minimalism was odd, but not in a way that added anything. The Logan brothers are so underplayed I never got revved up about them like I did Danny Ocean and Rusty Ryan.
This is decidedly NOT Vegas. Driver’s character is a one-armed vet, Tatum loses his job because his company found a way to release him for an injury, plus he has to contend with an ex-wife (Tatum’s daughter may not be one of the best actors in the film, but their relationship is one of the most genuine). If Ocean’s Eleven was a cross-section of Clinton’s America, this is clearly the cross-section of Trump’s, but the gags or comment are never too heavy-handed.
The overall film feels long but there still hangs in the air the will-they-or-won’t-they-pull-it-off vibe with actors you like carrying you through to the end. I can tell you this is the kind of movie I’d make if I’ve been out of the game for four years, but it’s a welcome return for a legendary filmmaker who I believe has it in him to keep going this time with no more talk of early retirement.
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Release Date: August 18, 2017
Run Time: 119 Minutes
Distributor: Bleeker Street Media