(Photo via Bleeker Street/Fingerprint Releasing)
Like many film fans, I was disappointed to hear a few years ago that Steven Soderbergh would be retiring from making films. He’s a brilliant director who always makes something wildly different from other major films being released. No matter how big (The Ocean’s Trilogy, Magic Mike) or small (Too many tiny films to count) his films are, his creative drive and intent as a filmmaker stays there. So I was ecstatic to hear that Soderbergh would be returning to filmmaking with Logan Lucky, which was described as a hillbilly Oceans 11. The cast looked great, the trailers looked incredible, and I was sold on the film before it was even released. Logan Lucky is a return to form for Soderbergh, and one of the best films of the summer and of the year.
Logan Lucky follows the lives of Jimmy (Channing Tatum) and Clyde Logan (Adam Driver), two brothers who live in West Virginia. Jimmy is down on his luck after losing his construction job and only have visitation here and there with his daughter, and tells Clyde one day of his plan to rob a racetrack in North Carolina, when it’s holding a major NASCAR event. Clyde reluctantly agrees, as does their sister Mellie (Riley Keough) and they enlist the help of a convict named Joe Bang (Daniel Craig) to be their bomb expert in blowing the safe.
Soderbergh released this film through his brand new distribution company Fingerprint Releasing, and is hoping the film will lead for other filmmakers to release their films on their own rather than with a studio. And as always with Soderbergh, he continues his DIY approach to filmmaking as he takes up cinematography/editing duties (under pseudonyms of course) and may or may not have written the screenplay of the film under the “Rebecca Blunt” pseudonym. Anyways, the film doesn’t have the hold of a major studio around it, so Soderbergh is able to do with this film as he pleases. And the irony here is that it’s Soderbergh’s most commercial film in years, as the film does in fact play like a lost-Oceans film set in Appalachia. And its on par with Soderbergh’s wildly entertaining Las Vegas heist trilogy.
Soderbergh has always commanded great performances from the actors he collaborates with, and Logan Lucky is no different. Channing Tatum is great here as the frumpy, injured Jimmy Logan, and Adam Driver is great as the Iraqi-war vet (the reason for his missing arm) who’s reluctant to go along with Jimmy’s heist. But the scene-stealer in this film, and a performance that deserves some awards consideration at the end of the year, is Daniel Craig’s turn as Joe Bang. Craig has held on to this stoic cool-guy persona in the past decade thanks to his work as 007 (we’re very excited to hear that he’ll be reprising his role in a final Bond film in two years), but Craig has unfortunately been typecast in a lot of tough guy roles thanks to his incredible work as Bond. With Logan Lucky, we see Craig in a roll unlike any he’s done before. Craig is over the top and hilarious as the bomb expert Joe Bang, as are his siblings Fish (Jack Quaid) and Sam Bang (Brian Gleeson), who assist on the heist. This is Craig’s best performance in years, and if you needed one reason to see Logan Lucky, Daniel Craig’s performance would be that very reason.
Soderbergh is a child of the south (he was born in Louisiana), and he’s able to perfectly capture life in Appalachia through the characters that inhabit this universe, and the universe itself. NASCAR continues to be king in this area of the country, a part of the country that helped elect our current president. Our President isn’t directly mentioned in the film, but the story of the Logan’s being down on their luck and feeling as if the American Dream has let them down is definitely a sentiment that many in that area of our country are feeling and felt in the past few years. Logan Lucky doesn’t necessarily get political, but there are definitely shades and undertones of that throughout the film.
Logan Lucky is a blast, and a great film to end the summer moviegoing season on. It’s a shame that its underperforming the way that it is, as it’s a great return to form for Soderbergh, and a great new chapter in Daniel Craig’s acting career. So while most of y’all (at least here in Texas) are stuck indoors thanks to the hurricane that’s hit the coast, I recommend going to check this film out when you can. It’s really funny, really entertaining, and just a helluva good time.