Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Review: "Logan Lucky" is another slick, sleek heist movie by Steven Soderbergh

Logan Lucky Review

I really enjoyed Steven Soderbergh's "Ocean's Eleven" movies. I liked the first and the third film the most, but the second film was still very enjoyable, even if it did feel a bit disconnected from the rest of the films. For a trilogy that originally began as a remake, I hope that is saying something. I guess I should say that I saw Soderbergh's remake before I saw the original Rat Pack version, which may have affected my thoughts a bit. The Rat Pack "Ocean's Eleven" isn't something people think of when they reflect on the classics from the 1960's, but I think its an incredibly fun movie. What Soderbergh did though is something I wish more people did with remakes, he took what made the first film work and expanded on the good. Trimming the fat of the thing too. He didn't just make a frame-by-frame reshoot for monetary profit.

Soderbergh has returned to the heist movie with "Logan Lucky." Soderbergh's "Ocean's Eleven" was a white collar heist movie, "Logan Lucky" is a blue collar heist movie. I am almost certain that Chris Pratt will love this movie. Now, two movies cut from the same cloth by the exact same director, does that mean that both movies are the exact same? Absolutely not. I will say that there are similar musical scores, there is some of that fun dialogue we know from Soderbergh, but much different and featuring a totally different tone to fit some of the more "redneck" aspects of the movie. Plus, I will argue that you should pay attention. I am sure some people will argue that "Logan Lucky" is just redneck "Ocean's Eleven," but that couldn't be further from the truth.

The Logan family is actually pretty unlucky at the beginning of the movie. We learn that Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) is a blue collar laborer who could have had a promising football career before a terrible injury. He is also divorced by his wife (Katie Holmes) who is making it harder for Jimmy to see their daughter. Jimmy's brother Clyde (Adam Driver) lost his arm during the Iraq war and now runs a bar. The family curse runs throughout many generations seemingly and at the beginning of the film, Jimmy loses his job. The brothers are feeling desperate for cash and they are feeling of turning to a life of crime, something both brothers used to deal in at one time or another. They plan to rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway on race day during Memorial Day weekend. They ask for the help of their sister (Riley Keough) and career criminal Joe Bang (Daniel Craig), who is in prison and will be during the race. How will the brothers break Bang out of prison to assist them in a heist?

The film is very funny, although its doesn't feature as many punchlines as "Ocean's Eleven" did. The pacing is also a big issue. The movie just doesn't move at an exciting pace as some of Soderbergh's other fun movies. Soderbergh kind of jumps back and forth between smart, cerebral dramas where he purposefully draws out scenes and then he punctuates his time with fun films like this or "Oceans" or "Haywire." With "Logan Lucky," it sometimes feels like he is trying to blend both of his talents together. Its a ballsy move if anything, but its kind of a nightmare pacing wise. I thought the movie took its time really getting going, instead of just throwing us into this world and there were moments that drag in between. Not nearly enough to derail the film by any means.

Daniel Craig has all of the best dialogue and moments in the movie, and he definitely comes out this thing as the favorite of the film. Who would have known Craig could be so blisteringly funny at times? Not to say that Channing Tatum and Adam Driver aren't good, because they definitely are. People keep talking and talking about Matthew McConaughey's Renaissance in his career, why is nobody talking about Channing Tatum's? This is a guy that felt like he was going to be another annoying heartthrob. But lately he's been playing to his strengths and really pushing the boundaries as a performer, and its leading to a rewarding career. Adam Driver is also proving more and more how strong a performer he is as well and that he isn't going to be the "Star Wars" guy. By any means. Its the small roles that are going to sneak up on you. Seth McFarlane shows up here, sporting a British accent. At first I didn't realize it was him, but it definitely is. He only has a few scenes, but he makes the most of his screentime. Hillary Swank also doesn't have that much screen time as an FBI agent hot on the trail of the Logan brothers, but she certainly makes the most of her time onscreen.

The familiarity may be a little too much for some audiences to get past. But Soderbergh was planning on being done with directing in 2013. He's been done since that year. He wanted to jump back in and direct a movie just to shoot this script. Maybe some things are similar to "Ocean's Eleven" by design. But the characters stakes, their emotional journeys and their interplay is so vastly different that I can't just call this a retread. Its too bad if Soderbergh is truly done, because he could have been the master of heist comedies. I mentioned Chris Pratt earlier in this review, because he recently got some unwanted heat for saying how blue collar workers are rarely represented in blockbusters. This feels fresh because its taking place in a world we really do barely see on screen, and part of the films fun is using the deep south as a character onto itself. 

But even if you find it too familiar or even if you find it slow at some points, the film is still very successful at entertaining the hell out of you. This was one helluva way to end summer 2017 for me. Hats off to the cast and the crew who put this fun little piece of candy together. I really hope audiences really start chomping at the bits to this, because this is a big, contact-high of a movie. 

FINAL GRADE: B+

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