August 17, 2017

CINEMA | Steven Soderbergh Steals 'Logan Lucky'

Channing Tatum Adam Driver Steven Soderbergh | Logan Lucky

Filmmaker Steven Soderbergh has returned from his short, four-year "retirement" to make a Southern fried, red state version of his Ocean's Eleven heist comedies (dubbed "Ocean's 7-Eleven" within the film). Set in West Virginia and North Carolina, Logan Lucky is basically a joyous parody of those films starring seemingly trashier versions those characters with an equally talented cast revolving around a half-baked plot to rob a NASCAR race venue. The film is a wholly fun ride and stylish piece of summer entertainment.

Channing Tatum (also a producer) stars an the titular "unlucky" Jimmy Logan. Desperate to overcome his economic lot, he comes up with a clever scheme to rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway with his one-handed bartender brother Clyde (Adam Driver). His lot in life is full of the same underlying American economic turmoil also predominatly seen in the other Tatum/Soderbergh collaboration, the first Magic Mike. Tatum and Driver play convincing Southern brothers with thick accents and funny ticks while extolling their family curse and sense of history.

Daniel Craig clearly had a blast making this film in his first full-on comedic role playing the imprisoned explosions expert, properly named Joe Bang. It's a big, boldly energetic performance free of the suffering of his usual dramatic characters. Riley Keough continues to prove her versatile screen presence as the Logan brothers' sister, Mellie. She's among the film's highlight performances and secret weapon as easily the most competent crew member.

Like the Ocean's films, the story focuses firmly on its cast of likeable characters and Soderbergh's refreshing take on hard, analogue technology dismissing ubiquitous contemporary devices. He quickly establishes this heightened but clearly real world characters, mines them for laughs, and understatedly but stylishly executes a different kind of heist. It's a dirtier, grungy environment using identifiable environments to revel in the reality of its characters.

Channing Tatum Adam Driver Daniel Craig Steven Soderbergh | Logan Lucky

Written by first-time screenwriter Rebecca Blunt (who may or may not exist and is likely to actually be Jules Asner, Soderbergh's wife), the film's script is full of Southern know-how and authenticity in its comedy. Supposedly from the area herself and familiar with that world's lore, the film never laughs at is characters for their ignorance but acknowledges their lives and history to exploit it for high comedy.

A trio of strong women, played be Katie HolmesKatherine Waterston, and Hilary Swank, all show up to challenge the brothers as Jimmy's ex-wife, his love interest, and a hard-boiled FBI agent in different ways. With limited screen time, they all manage to establish their own firm roles without being simply stereotyped "bitches" in this grungy world. In a lesser film, these female characters would be combined into a thankless composite girlfriend/wife character used only to justify the male characters' actions.

Finally, a nearly unrecognizable Seth MacFarlane sports a hideous wig and bad English accent to show up as completely obnoxious social media celebrity in the form of an energy magnate and race car sponsor. His performance works too well in establishing a sort of enemy and foil/villain where the cast of "good guys" acts largely unopposed.

Logan Lucky shows Soderbergh's complete efficiency in constructing and deconstructing his own filmography. His talent for assembling actors and framing them splendidly futher proves his mastery of the basic cinematic form. It's a fine piece of Southern comic entertainment full of fun performances and snappy filmmaking.

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