From time to time directors need to take a break, and I get it. Filmmaking must be an exhausting and difficult process. Even the great Stanley Kubrick took a well-deserved 12-year break between ‘Full Metal Jacket’ (1987) and ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ (1999). So when Oscar-winning Steven Soderbergh announced his ‘retirement’ from directing, it came as a surprise to see him back just four years later from his last feature.
He left on a high note with the critically acclaimed biopic ‘Behind The Candelabra’ being a film that defied expectations and met some sturdy opposition from audiences across the globe, due to its somewhat ‘controversial’ subject matter.
But an eagerly anticipated return to our screens means a return to a genre that is close to Soderbergh’s heart: the heist movie. The heist movie for Soderbergh is what I imagine the Sci-fi genre is for Spielberg. Whilst both directors have ventured into unfamiliar territory, they both have their best films (arguably) in these particular genres. Although Soderbergh has made other interesting films (look no further than ‘Traffic’ and ‘Magic Mike’) it’s the ‘Ocean’ trilogy that puts his name on the movie-map.
His return to the heist genre has brought us ‘Logan Lucky’. The movie begins in West Virginia, where Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) is fixing a car with the adorable assistance of his daughter (Farrah Mackenzie, write it down). After being laid-off from his job due to being a liability to the company, Jimmy encourages his younger brother Clyde (Adam Driver) to assist him in his criminal adventure.
The seemingly simple-minded Logan brothers are both disabled, Jimmy having trouble with his knee and Clyde being an amputee (“it’s like the two of you add up to one whole person”), but the limit of such similarities end with Tatum and Driver’s contrasting performances. Whilst Tatum’s character is often cheerful and light-hearted in his approach to the unfortunate circumstances he finds himself in, Driver’s Clyde is much more solemn and serious. Put them both together, and Soderbergh has managed to bring forth a pair of interesting and empathetic characters.
Cauliflower. To you and me, an awful tasting vegetable. To the Logan brothers, a code word that acts as a trigger to a life of crime. Jimmy’s utterance of the word to the unfavourable ears of his younger brother means that they must work together to pull off a complex robbery that will be later known as the ‘Hillbilly Heist’ during a NASCAR race in North Carolina. But they can’t do it alone…
In comes Joe Bang and his two highly uneducated and unsophisticated (but utterly hilarious) hillbilly brothers. Joe Bang is a fitting name for Daniel Craig’s character, a name that emphasises his expertise in the explosive-making business. Craig’s unrecognisable performance couldn’t be further away from the debonair persona that he has become known for, playing James Bond over recent years; expect no sexy British ambience or sophisticated suave here!
As the opening scene reaches your eyes there’s an undeniable neo-Western vibe to Soderbergh’s return, from the Creedance Clearwater Revival soundtrack to the ‘tang’ of the West Virginian accent, there’s something truly appealing about modernising the somewhat out-dated Western genre. When it’s done right, it feels nostalgic and has a sense of resonation that can be enjoyed.
That’s not to say that the modern aspects of the film aren’t to be enjoyed, either. Most of the humour throughout the film, written by mysterious first-timer Rebecca Blunt (perhaps one of Soderbergh’s many pseudonyms?), is both fresh and effective. There are some truly hilarious moments, particularly the shots being fired at George R.R. Martin for his rather slow writing style. They’ve got a point, George…
Where ‘Logan Lucky’ really shines, is through Soderbergh’s trademarking caper-movie style. The heist plan montage explained methodically via non-diegetic narration, or even the final revelation explaining how the heist really panned out, is smartly executed; yet I do still have issues with the final third of the movie.
The main reason Soderbergh’s ‘Ocean’ trilogy succeeded, for me, was because it was exhilarating; it had an edge of excitement to the way in which the action unraveled on screen. Whilst those films had people on the edge of their seats, ‘Logan Lucky’ will have you firmly laid back against the backrest. This time round, Soderbergh guides you along an A-Z heist with no bumps in the road, nothing that feels detrimental to the gang’s success. Was this a perfectly planned crime, or perhaps a victim of plot convenience?
Find out for yourselves. Of all the films to be enjoyed this month, Logan Lucky is up there with them. It’s definitely worth your hard earned cash.
Corey’s rating: 7.5 out of 10
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Daniel Craig, Riley Keough, Katie Holmes