Soderbergh is back, baby, and he’s got a new heist film to help bring out the red carpet on his return to Hollywood, and the result is one of the funniest films of the year so far and a great addition to the canon of heist films that Soderbergh started nearly two decades ago with the Oceans trilogy (2001-2007). With great and memorable characters and some stand-out work from the ensemble cast, Logan Lucky is a sure-fire candidate for one of the best films of the year so far and an eye-opener for some actors as they branch out into unknown territory. More on that in a minute.
The story follows Jimmy and Clyde Logan, brothers who live in Charlotte, North Carolina, with Jimmy being a crippled construction worker and Clyde being a one-handed bartender. When Clyde is let go because of an insurance liability due to his leg, he devises a plan to steal money from NASCAR during one of the biggest races of the year. Not only will Clyde be involved, but also Clyde’s wife Mellie, a couple of brothers who know tech, and the mastermind of masterminds when it comes to explosives, Joe Bang.
I don’t want to get way too far into the plot in fear of some potential spoilers, but I’ll tell you this: the film is not so much about the heist plot as much as it is about the characters. Really, from Channing Tatum and Adam Driver as the Logan brothers to Mellie’s hairstylist, played by Riley Keough, even in a smaller role Katherine Waterston plays a nurse, and especially for Seth MacFarlane in a nearly unrecognizable role as a NASCAR sponsor, it’s a whole cavalcade, if you will, of good actors given interesting roles and matching them with spot-on performances. But it’s Daniel Craig as Joe Bang who steals the whole show. First off, I’ve been saying for years that I’ve seen in Craig the potential for tremendous comedic timing and a real natural actor in the comedy world, but after all the James Bond films and Stieg Larsson adaptations, it’s finally time for him to shine in the comedy world, and he doesn’t disappoint. Well, on paper his character is designed to steal the show, true, but get a lesser actor or a normal comedian in the role and I don’t think it works. Take, for example, a swap: say Seth MacFarlane plays Joe Bang and Craig plays the sponsor. It just wouldn’t work. Sure, Craig would be a nice surprise in that supporting role, but MacFarlane just wouldn’t have the false-edge that somebody like Joe Bang, an explosives expert, has. It’s just about the best choice you could have gone with. Oh, another note: John Denver fans will be completely satisfied with the film: numerous mentions and nods to him. Also, one more note, again no spoilers intended here, but there’s actually a good deal of the film that is set after the heist, and again a testament to what Soderbergh’s doing here: he’s not focusing on the heist, he’s focusing on making great and memorable characters, and how everybody responds to what’s going on after the heist goes down is also a great step that not every heist film takes.
Really the only complaint I have is a minor one: the dialogue gets pretty garbled sometimes from Craig, Tatum, and Driver. That might have been the theater I was in not being the best in the sound department, but I don’t think so. I feel like at times subtitles would really help get some of those stingers out. I had to look up a few quotes from the film online since I felt the film had to be funnier than it was, and trust me, if you do that, you’ll find that Soderbergh or whoever wrote the script, because evidently the listed name of Rebecca Blunt is an alias, does have talent. Otherwise, the film flows at a great pace and even though it’s just shy of two hours doesn’t feel like it, and all the other stuff I mentioned add to the film’s pros.
Even though this film isn’t doing all that well with the audiences as far as box office returns, I think this is a film that’s worth seeking out. To harp back on the point, the acting is good, sometimes superb, the characters are even better, there’s lots of laughs to be had, and the heist scenes are extremely well done. A good soundtrack always helps, and relating to the Logan brothers is essential, otherwise you won’t really care what’s going on with the heist, and obviously Soderbergh knows this, but it’s a big thing, even if on paper it doesn’t sound so. Maybe the film will go down as a looked-over gem, or it could see a resurgence and have a good life afterwards, either way, I’m celebrating this one as a great return for Soderbergh and one of the best films of the year so far.
My rating: 9/10.