After an absence of four years from cinematic directing, Steven Soderbergh is back behind the camera for Logan Lucky – a heist film, billed as a crime caper, not too far removed from the oeuvre of the Coen brothers. Logan Lucky sits in Soderbergh’s comfort zone of well-executed robbery films, though the distinctions made here constitute more than an Ocean’s update with rednecks.
Logan is the surname of a West Virginian clan whose fortunes have not favoured them in the past ninety years - the current Logan siblings work in a bar, salon and, Jimmy, our titular Logan, has recently lost his job by being positively unlucky. Jimmy (Tatum) is your regular, working class, family guy, slightly schlubby and going through the motions of being a weekend father to his daughter, whose guardians are his ex-wife, Bobbie-Jo (Holmes), and her successful car dealer husband. As matters in Jimmy’s life deteriorate, he learns that his wife will relocate to another state, leaving Jimmy with no financial means to see his child and thus, the set-up for a heist is concocted.
Logan Lucky’s marketing has committed the biggest conceit of all
Rebecca Blunt’s screenplay is a firm, if not always assured, composition over which Soderbergh can play a greatest hits of his signature techniques; out are the dated (and often imitated) dolly-whips, as are the glossy robbery planning montages, favoured in his Oceans series, and in are Steadicam and meditative pacing; doling out the fine details of the heist in piecemeal fashion.
If anything, Logan Lucky’s marketing has committed the biggest conceit of all by selling the film as more of a Tower Heist than a film which readily prompts its audience to do some heavy lifting. After its initial framework, Logan Lucky leaves its audiences guessing in exam-like fashion, before the final answers are revealed – much to its forte.
Out of the ensemble star cast, Daniel Craig’s ‘Joe Bang’ is the candidate for being most memorable, not only by playing against type, but the clear joy and self-medicating nihilistic streak he bandies about as a convicted explosions expert. Craig’s performance is so fraught with zinging energy, you question whether he should have put a bullet in the chamber to ‘off’ his other persona a long time ago.
Tatum, as an average-Joe, is amusing and a foothold enough to climb into the Logan world, and I’m sure he had a hard time not exercising, chugging beer and keeping himself unkempt for the role. His (mainly) civil relationship with his ex-wife goes against the convention of embittered child-custody to’ing and fro’ing, but for much of the film, Holme’s Bobbie-Jo pares back what could have been a caricature, allowing a level of believability to flow between them.
And believability is where Logan Lucky also fails.
Blunt’s screenplay wants the film to exist in circles of both a fantastical crime-caper and commentary on the working-class existence
The unconvincing play-off of redneck archetypes as idiot savants is problematic. Moreover, as the final reveal is lifted, it renders the plot as farcical as the robbery plan itself. Blunt’s screenplay wants the film to exist in circles of both a fantastical crime-caper and commentary on the working-class existence in forgotten America, falling short in pulling these opposing worlds into a whole. Slapstick moments are executed exceedingly well; they are light and fun, but never absurdist. The tender asides, too, are given the respect and solemnity befitting of a far more serious screenplay, more notably the opening father and daughter scene as they innocently roleplay mechanics.
A frustrating tacked-on epilogue involving law enforcement comes to no substantial conclusion, save for an open end to allow an unnecessary sequel and concede a cameo to an Academy Award winner. And unlike the film, we mustn’t forget about Seth MacFarlane; chumming up the worst British accent since Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins and a weak storyline better off left in the repair shop. There are also difficulties with Blunt’s screenplay as the finale draws the strands of her narrative together in its closing moments a little too neatly, ill-fitting of the film itself as a whole.
Even accounting for these errors, Logan Lucky never stops being fun.
It is derivative of every heist film going but its selling point should be the restraint; characters dial themselves down. Its ridicule is tempered by the quietness and, for every Joe Bang there’s a Mellie Logan (an almost mute Riley Keough, driving her character through actions, not words) acting as a counterpoint. In its breakout moment of levity, the reference to Game Of Thrones will inevitably age the film, but the payoff here is worth it, and that subsequently calcifies the very essence of its raison d’etre.
It is a film mired in the now and the American dream, regardless of which overseer is in the White House, the fundamentals remain the same: everyone is an opportunist trying to attain better status and security through the simplest of means: the almighty dollar.
And Jimmy Logan is another dreamer, a lucky one at that.