I don’t think anyone really expected Steven Soderbergh to stay in retirement. There was a bit of thought that he would but with his work on stage and TV since he retired, it was all but inevitable that Soderbergh would come back to film. Considering that his most popular films in the eyes of the general public are the Ocean’s Eleven films, it made sense that Soderbergh’s return to film would be with another heist film, and Logan Lucky is a really fun example of the genre.The film focuses on Jimmy Logan, a blue collar construction worker and former football star, after he loses his job in construction due to a limp he suffers from a leg injury that halted his football career. Worried over his ex-wife moving to a different city, which would make it harder to visit his daughter, Jimmy comes up with a plan to rob Charlotte Motor Speedway during a race, using the knowledge he gained whilst doing construction work, recruiting his siblings one-armed bartender Clyde and salon worker Mellie, along with safecracker Joe Bang and his brothers, breaking Joe out of prison for his help. Now a film like Logan Lucky lives or dies on the strength of the heist. If the heist doesn’t work on any level, the entire film falls apart. Thankfully, with Soderbergh at the helm, the heist scenes in Logan Lucky are brilliantly handled, with the details of the heist being revealed at the right time, along with a good sense of fun being generated throughout the film. This sense of fun helps makes the film so watchable, but underneath this, there’s a good deal of depth, mainly in how the film presents the characters and the environment they live in. Logan Lucky is steeped in the iconography of the South (although, thankfully, the iconography that isn’t being featured in the news right now), with a sense of pride in the area pervading the film, helping you into the mindset of the characters, with a scene set at a child beauty pageant being one of the more heartwarming scenes in the film. The film also does a good job playing with expectations regarding the characters. Based on dozens of other films set in the South, there is the perception that the characters aren’t intelligent, which is exactly the perception the characters in the film want to be seen as having. Throughout the film, we see that the main characters are a lot smarter than they originally let on and the characters use this to their advantage in the last act of the film, with this aspect also being what makes the heist work. In fact, all of the characters we see are smarter than they let on, even the characters in the prison Joe Bang is incarcerated in, with a great joke about A Song of Ice and Fire in these scenes.
The performances help give the film it’s sense of heart as well. Channing Tatum continues his brilliant streak as Jimmy. He’s got the right level of charm needed for the character, the relationship he has with his character’s daughter is sweet and he delivers the comedic elements of the film effectively. Whilst I would have preferred if an actor with one hand had the part, Adam Driver was fun as Clyde Logan, working well off of Tatum and being a good comedic foil. Riley Keough as Mellie Logan, whilst a bit underwritten, is entertaining as well, working well with Tatum and Driver and giving the character a good deal of personality. We also get fun performances from Brian Gleeson, Jack Quaid and Dwight Yoakum whilst Seth MacFarlane plays a great annoying arsehole in his scenes in the film. There are some actors who feel a bit wasted though, mainly Katherine Waterston, Kelly Holmes and Sebastian Stan, all of whom give their characters personality but don’t get enough time to make them compelling characters. The scene stealer in the film though is easily Daniel Craig as Joe Bang. This role is a complete contrast to all of Craig’s other films and shows just how great a comedic actor Craig is, getting all the best lines, the way the character holds himself is a lot of fun and the voice he chooses fits the tone of the film perfectly.
On a technical level, Soderbergh shows that he is still a top level talent. The directing, cinematography and editing do a great job at conveying the tone of the heist and the pacing of the film is the right level for this film. For heist films to work effectively, a fast pace is needed to convey how messy heists can get and the skill that is needed and once again Soderbergh shows how good he is at doing this. The music meanwhile does a great job at showing the tone of the environment, although it’s weird that this is the fourth film this year after Free Fire, Alien: Convenant and Okja to have prominent scenes set to the music of John Denver.
Overall, Logan Lucky is a good bit of fun and a solid return to film from Steven Soderbergh. Whilst some of the characters aren’t well written, the overall tone of the film is effective, showing both the skill of the characters during the heist and the sense of pride the characters have in their environment, whilst the performances help make the film so fun to watch, especially a scene stealing performance from Daniel Craig. Here’s hoping that we see more films from Soderbergh in the future.
My Rating: 4/5