ICYMI: Logan Lucky (2017)
I wonder if it’s possible to be a renowned, celebrated filmmaker and at the same time be underrated and often overlooked? That to me is the career of Steven Soderbergh. His career got off to a supernova start when his debut feature, 1989’s Sex, Lies, and Videotape, won the prestigious Palm D’Or. Thankfully, he avoided being a mere “flash-in-the-pan.” His prolific career has included indie gems like King of the Hill and The Underneath, box office success with the Ocean’s Eleven series and Magic Mike, a well-deserved Best Director Oscar for 2000’s Traffic, and arguably the best Elmore Leonard film adaption in 1998’s Out of Sight. And yet he tends to fly under the wire since he does not crave the limelight nor is he a self-promoter like fellow contemporaries Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez.
And despite proclaiming imminent retirement in 2012, he is still making movies and adding to his impressive cinematic resume (26 feature films in 29 years). 2017’s Logan Lucky was another reminder of Soderbergh’s immense talent, even if it was largely ignored at the box office despite a 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. What non-Soderbergh fans missed was a supremely charming and ingenious heist flick, sort of Ocean’s Eleven meets the “Dukes of Hazzard.”
The film follows the Logan clan which consists of Jimmy (Channing Tatum), a one-time coal miner with a gimpy leg; Clyde (Adam Driver), a bartender with a prosthetic hand courtesy of military service; and Mellie (Riley Keough), a hairdresser with a penchant for hot-rodding. When Jimmy’s latest employment stint ends and his ex-wife (Katie Holmes) presses him for child support, a plan hatches to rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway. The crew includes the aforementioned Logans as well as the Bang brothers: Sam (Brian Gleeson), Fish (Jack Quaid), and explosives expert Joe (Daniel Craig).
The inclusion of Joe is of particular note since he is currently incarcerated with only five months to go. The only thing more entertaining than how he is furloughed for the day of the robbery is the performance of Daniel Craig. The reigning James Bond is almost as volatile as the chemicals he uses for the robbery. He is endlessly watchable as he chews each scene with every twitch and twang in a performance that I thought should have been Oscar-nominated.
Also along for the fun are Sebastian Stan as a NASCAR driver whose fragile health regimen becomes a surprising plot point, Seth MacFarlane as Stan’s obnoxious sponsor who has an early, ugly encounter with the Logan brothers, and Hillary Swank as the FBI agent who seems two steps behind or two steps ahead depending on your perspective.
But what makes Logan Lucky so much fun is the watchful eye of director Soderbergh. There isn’t a wasted moment in the film, with Soderbergh highlighting every nuance and showing the audience only what they need to see. It also helps that he is working with a first-rate script from newcomer Rebecca Blunt (rumored to be Jules Asner aka Mrs. Soderbergh).
Not sure when Steven Soderbergh will “threaten” retirement again but we as film lovers should be grateful as long as he is working. His film catalog is as varied as it is dense. And if he happens to switch gears to actual crime, I’m sure the authorities would be equal parts fooled and entertained.