Logan Lucky

logan-lucky-rev Logan Lucky  (2017)    Bleecker Street/Action-Comedy    RT: 119 minutes    Rated PG-13 (language, some crude comments)    Director: Steven Soderbergh    Screenplay: Rebecca Blunt    Music: David Holmes    Cinematography: Peter Andrews    Release date: August 18, 2017 (US)    Cast: Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Seth MacFarlane, Riley Keough, Katie Holmes, Katherine Waterston, Dwight Yoakam, Sebastian Stan, Brian Gleeson, Jack Quaid, Hilary Swank, Daniel Craig, Farrah Mackenzie, David Denham, Macon Blair, Charles Halford, Ann Mahoney, Jon Eyez.

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 First of all, a great big welcome back to Steven Soderbergh whose retirement from directing films lasted all of four years. He had a good run with titles like Out of Sight, The Limey, Erin Brockovich, Traffic and Contagion. He also directed the 2001 Ocean’s Eleven remake and its two sequels. His last theatrical movie was 2013’s Side Effects. After a brief sojourn in cable TV, he comes back strong with Logan Lucky, a Southern-fried heist comedy that plays like a trailer park version of one of his Ocean’s movies. Other directors would deny repeating themselves. Soderbergh has a news reporter refer to the Logan Lucky heist gang as “Ocean’s 7-11”. Since they don’t really call themselves anything anyway, it’s a good a name as any.

logan-lucky Magic Mike star Channing Tatum stars as Jimmy Logan, a one-time high school football star permanently sidelined by a knee injury. With his glory days long over, he tries to stay afloat but can’t seem to catch a break. Most recently, he’s let go from his construction job due to a liability issue (he didn’t disclose his knee injury on his application). His ex-wife Bobbi Joe (Holmes, Woman in Gold) gives him crap about it then informs him that she’s moving out of state with their daughter Sadie (Mackenzie, Coat of Many Colors) making it harder for him to see her.

 Jimmy goes to see his brother Clyde (Driver, Star Wars: The Force Awakens), who lost part of his arm in the Iraq War, at his bar. Clyde talks non-stop about the curse on their family. Every Logan, with the exception of younger sister Mellie (Keough, American Honey), has been visited by back luck. Jimmy has an idea of how to turn that around. Through his old job, he learned about the pneumatic tube system beneath the Charlotte Motor Speedway. It’s how concession employees deliver cash earnings to a vault in the basement. Jimmy has a plan to steal the money but he’ll need the help of explosives expert Joe Bang (Craig, Skyfall) who’s currently imprisoned (or, as he puts it, “In....CAR...cer...a....TED”). No problem, he also has a plan to break him out and sneak him back in after they’re done.

 One of the most fun things about Logan Lucky is that you’re never quite sure if the characters are as dim as they seem. They’re either really smart or incredibly stupid. You just don’t know. Soderbergh chooses not to reveal his hand too early. He keeps you wondering and guessing until he’s ready to tell you. This extends to the robbery itself. You see it happening yet you’re left with a few questions. Then, near the end, Soderbergh shows us how the trick was done. That’s his M.O. Everything is on a need-to-know basis and he won’t tell you a thing until you need to know it. Not every director can pull this off. Soderbergh is like an expert magician in how he conceals or reveals information with a mere shift of the camera or how he frames certain scenes. The editing and cinematography are first-rate. One must keep in mind that none of this would matter without a good script. Thankfully, Logan Lucky has that.

 The screenplay, credited to “Rebecca Blunt”, was actually written by Soderbergh’s wife Jules Asner. For a change, nepotism is a good thing. It’s a clever, well-written screenplay with fair amounts of action, suspense and humor especially with its jabs at Southern things like NASCAR, child beauty pageants and unemployment. The heist sequence is well-plotted and well-orchestrated. It doesn’t appear meticulous at first but believe me when I say everything that happens in Logan Lucky happens for a reason. Nothing is extraneous. Even the late-in-the-game arrival of an FBI agent (Swank, Million Dollar Baby) determined to get to the bottom of the case seems like it was expected.

 Soderbergh has a knack for putting together great ensemble casts. The Ocean’s movies are an obvious example so let me redirect you to 1998’s Out of Sight. Check out this line-up: George Clooney, Jennifer Lopez, Ving Rhames, Don Cheadle, Steve Zahn, Albert Brooks, Dennis Farina and Michael Keaton. It really is “out of sight”! Logan Lucky proves he hasn’t lost his touch. In addition to those I’ve already mentioned, the cast also includes Seth McFarlane (Family Guy) as an arrogant businessman, Sebastian Stan (Winter Soldier) as the driver he manages and country singer Dwight Yoakam (Sling Blade) as the dim-witted prison warden. Brian Gleeson (the upcoming Darren Aronofsky thriller Mother) and Jack Quaid (Hunger Games) play Joe’s brothers who agree to take part in the robbery because it fits their moral code. For the most part, the actors’ fake Southern accents are convincing. Craig’s has an extra comic dimension because he sounds like a redneck sheriff from a bad Smokey and the Bandit knock-off.

 I don’t know how Logan Lucky will do at the box office. It wasn’t marketed heavily. A few people I know never heard of it. I saw the trailer maybe one time. The manager at my theater of choice told me it was doing poorly on opening day. That’s too bad; it’s a good movie. I can’t imagine why Soderbergh got sent down to the minors with a late August release date. He’s better than that and so is Logan Lucky. It’s a late summer wild card movie.

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