Soderbergh comes out of retirement for laughs, but not much else.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Steven Soderbergh is one of those names people find hard to place. He’s a populist, but he’s not a for-hire kind of guy. He does his own thing, and he does it excellently. He’s done everything from smooth remakes (Ocean’s Eleven) to traditional dramas (Erin Brockovich) to Hitchcockian thrillers (Side Effects), and he’s stayed true to his style throughout all of them. With Logan Lucky, he’s come out of retirement to return to one of his most successful genres – the heist film.
Set in West Virginia, Logan follows down-on-his-luck Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) as he attempts to rob the NASCAR concession stand vault during the biggest race of the year. His team consists of his brother Clyde (Adam Driver), his sister Mellie (Riley Keough), demolition expert Joe Bang (Daniel Craig), and Joe’s two brothers Sam and Fish (Brian Gleeson and Jack Quaid respectively). It’s a feast of southern twangs and hick-English, with Craig arguably having the most fun playing on the right-side of hammy.
There’s loads of fun to be had. Sam and Fish are laugh factories, the heist is a tense rollercoaster of jokes and subtle character drama, and the pageant climax is surprisingly touching. Solid stuff all around really. You can even praise it for not writing its women as wet blankets – Mellie’s sparring with brother-in-law Moody (David Denman) is excellent.
And yet, it never quite comes together to be more than solid. It has a weird tendency, for instance, to introduce characters that don’t quite make sense. Some of them are funny – a man in a bear costume distributing explosives in the woods – but others feel like a second draft would have dropped them. Katherine Waterston appears as Jimmy’s romantic interest, but she’s given barely 5 minutes of screen time, so none of it connects. Seth MacFarlane appears as an insufferable energy drink CEO, but nothing he does is funny it’s just garish. Hilary Swank even appears as an FBI agent who exists purely to demonstrate how smart Jimmy is. The list goes on and it’s indicative of the film as a whole.
Adding to these woes is the fact that the film could’ve easily been about something. Jimmy only plans the heist after getting fired so they could’ve easily included commentary on the plight of rural America – a more fun Hell or High Water, in other words – but that message is never fully realised. Instead, Logan gets lost in the fun side of things and forgets to present a satisfying, coherent whole.
Logan Lucky is without a doubt an entertaining film. Its comedic timing is impeccable, and it’s a blast watching the cast sink their teeth into outrageous roles. A solid round of editing might’ve lifted Logan Lucky, but as it stands, there are too many loose threads that keep it from greatness. It wouldn’t be an awful thing if Soderbergh stayed out of retirement purely to keep producing films of this calibre, it’d just be a shame if he didn’t bother to rise above it.
Logan Lucky is available in Australian cinemas from August 17
Image courtesy of Roadshow Films