By: Christian Harding (Two Beers) –
Well, that didn’t last very long.
Here’s a tip: when any noteworthy or established current filmmakers say they’re about to go into retirement (especially if it’s a self-proclaimed “early” one), don’t believe them. Heck, Hayao Miyazaki has now twice(!) returned from a supposed retirement from filmmaking – though I can’t complain about that fact one bit. Such is the case with the Ocean’s Eleven trilogy helmer Steven Soderbergh, who most recently made Side Effects back in 2013, and announced his “retirement” from film directing soon after. Fast forward a mere four years later, and he’s already back in the director’s chair with one of the summer’s most lightweight but ultimately satisfying later entries in Logan Lucky.
Who wants to start taking bets regarding how long Quentin Tarantino’s supposed “retirement” will last?
Back working in his comfort zone, director Steven Soderbergh positions Logan Lucky as an Ocean’s knockoff of sorts, in that it’s a star-studded heist dramadey set in a locale that’s very specific to the cast of characters involved, as well as the environment of the narrative. In this case, it’s the American South of the 21st century, with the central heist revolving around a hugely popular NASCAR race. As with the Ocean‘s trilogy, one of the greatest pleasures of watching this film is witnessing a cast full of established, A-list celebrities hamming it up for two breezily paced hours, while managing to never go too far over the top.
Particularly worthy of mention is Daniel Craig, brilliantly playing against type as one of the main architects of the robbery, and usually the smartest guy in the room at any given time. Also turning in solid comedic performances are leads Channing Tatum and Adam Driver, along with a grocery list’s worth of other players that would take too long to give proper appraisals for. Needless to say, the film also looks pretty nice to boot, with Soderbergh acting as his own cinematographer (hidden under a pseudonym as per usual) and is anchored by a sharp, polished screenplay by Rebecca Blunt (presumably another pseudonym). All of this amounts to an admittedly weightless, but still ultimately satisfying time at the movies.
If I were to point to one specific element of this film that could’ve used a bit more work, it would probably be the actual heist within the film itself; specifically, the somewhat cliched, unbelievable plot that centers around it all. With Logan Lucky being more of a straightforward comedy than some of Steven Soderbergh’s other recent works, the main focus here is on the interactions between his colorful cast of characters and the moment-to-moment antics and wackiness that come about from their actions driving the plot forward. The relatively thin nature of the story isn’t anything too noticeable or crippling here, since the focus is moreso on the characters involved, but it still warrants mentioning that the weakest element in a heist film is the heist itself.
Hey you, starting your “Best films of summer 2017” just a bit early; step away from the keyboard and go to the nearest theater to see what former “retiree” Steven Soderbergh has cooked up for us. While Logan Lucky isn’t necessarily up to the level of some of the director’s best works, it signals a welcome return to the silver screen for Soderbergh and is just an all around solidly enjoyable time at the cinema, featuring an impressive collection of A-listers hamming it up for your viewing pleasure. It won’t change your life, but you could probably do a lot worse, especially considering how late into the summer movie season we find ourselves.
Logan Lucky (2017) Drinking Game
Do a Shot: whenever Channing Tatum’s accent sounds a little dodgy.
Do another Shot: for every gag regarding Adam Driver’s fake arm.
Just a Sip: during each moment of Daniel Craig hamming it up.
Shotgun a Beer: when a John Denver song is mentioned or plays over the soundtrack.