Back in 2001, the heist film Ocean’s Eleven was a big hit featuring an ensemble cast, spawning two sequels and became known for its time shifting editing. Its director Steven Soderbergh returns to the heist genre with his hilarious hillbilly version.
Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) is a West Virginian construction worker who loses his job at the Charlotte Motor Speedway because he had a ‘pre-existing condition’.
When he finds out his ex-wife (Katie Holmes) is moving to Virginia with his young daughter he plans a heist using his knowledge of the Speedway operation and recruits his one handed brother Clyde (Adam Driver), sister Mellie (Riley Keough) and imprisoned explosive expert Joe Bang (Daniel Craig).
Within the film the heist is described “Ocean’s 7-Eleven” and that is an apt way to describe Logan Lucky. Soderbergh uses the same bag of tricks, disjointed editing to show how the heist was done – having a comedic tone throughout.
Soderbergh has had an eclectic career as a filmmaker: besides from making the Ocean’s films he filmography includes Oscar contending dramas like Traffic and Erin Brockovich, mainstream thrillers such as Contagion and Side Effects and low budget, arty flicks i.e. sex, lies, and videotapes and The Girlfriend Experience. Soderbergh best work tends to be his more mainstream efforts and he knows how to make a crowd pleasing film.
Logan Lucky has some hilarious dialogue, banter and set pieces and this is due to the perfect combination of direction, writing and acting. There are witty exchanges throughout and some of my favourite moments were when one of the character ram-raids a gas station and when a group of prisoners talks about a popular fantasy franchise.
The cast had a great chemistry together. Tatum already had a working relationship with Soderbergh and he had proven himself as a capable comedic actor in the Jump Street series. Both Tatum and Driver had great exchanges – yet it is Daniel Craig who steals the show as the Virginian accented bank robber with a lot of muscles and bleach blond hair. Craig had some of the best dialogue in the film and he is very different to his famous James Bond role.
Soderbergh is a director that many actors want to work with and many of his films have ensemble casts. Logan Lucky is no different – besides from having Tatum, Driver and Craig in the main roles Logan Lucky features Seth MacFarlane as a supposedly British businessman but sounded more Australian and Katherine Waterson (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Alien: Covenant), playing one of Jimmy’s former classmates.
Even actors like Sebastian Stan (Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier from the Marvel Cinematic Universe) and Hilary Swank appear in minor roles – in Stan’s case a very minor role. Logan Lucky also continues a Soderbergh trademark of giving real people cameo – this time it’s LeAnn Rimes singing the American National Anthem and because of the NASCAR setting cameos from NASCAR racers and sports broadcasters.
The heist of a sports arena makes Logan Lucky similar to the Stanley Kubrick classic The Killing where a group of criminal rob a horse racing track. The Killing was famous for showing events from different perspectives and influenced filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino, Guy Ritchie and of course Soderbergh’s heist films.
Also like The Killing, Logan Lucky was split into two halves (as well as many other heist films), the first being the planning of the heist and second about the heist itself. Both films have a man on the inside who knows the operation in the stadia – although in Logan Lucky‘s case the Jimmy is the inside man – knowing how the money is transferred within the complex.
Logan Lucky is weakest element is the third act. After the heist, the film takes place over a longer period of time yet has an even faster pace and makes it seem like the film was just rushing to a conclusion. This is was when Hilary Swank was introduced into the film and it was a thankless role for an Oscar-Winning actress. Her role would only be worth her time if there’s a sequel.
The screenplay is credited to a woman called Rebecca Blunt but Logan Lucky is her only credit on her IMDB page and it is believed that it’s a pseudonym for another writer. Regardless the writer does attempt to bring in themes about family regarding the relationship between the Logan siblings and between Jimmy and his daughter. The film has the cliché of Jimmy having to choose between the heist and going to his daughter’s pageant – yet it works in the context of the film.
Logan Lucky has been criticised that its plan is too elaborate considering the figures who come with it. Jimmy is no fool but he isn’t a career criminal either. Yet because of the comedic tone of the film it allows for a greater suspension of disbelief and enjoy the crime in motion.
Logan Lucky has great moments of hilarity and it’s clearly successful. It is a perfect storm of directing, writing and acting. Weirdly Logan Lucky is the second summer film to feature Katherine Waterston and the John Denver song “Country Road.”