|UK Release Date||25th August 2017|
|Starring||Channing Tatum, Adam Driver|
|Reviewed||28th August 2017|
Retirement is a tricky thing. For most of us it's the thing that might happen when we hit 65. Or 68. Or whatever it is by the time we get to it. For Hollywood types, it kind of comes and goes. So four years after completing Behind the Candelabra and announcing his retirement, Steven Soderbergh steps back into the limelight. And pretty much goes back in time to 2001's Ocean's Eleven....
Logan Lucky then is very much a son of Ocean or at least, a sort of blue collar Southern cousin of Ocean. A wordy heist thriller with plenty of quirks, the usual cool soundtrack by... anyone? yup, David Holmes and the usual montage reveal at the end. Scripted by the possibly fictitious Rebecca Blunt and shot by Soderbergh himself, this is every bit the in-house project you'd expect. Slightly less ensemble than the Ocean's movies but none the less stuffed with acting talent, this one follows the Logan family as they try to fleece the local NASCAR racing track of its hard-earned concessions money.
Channing Tatum is Jimmy Logan, ex hot football prospect and now largely unemployed miner (the football injury gets him removed from his latest job working for a sink hole repair company under the aforementioned NASCAR stadium), trying to make ends meet and keep up with his daughter's (Farrah Mackenzie) pageant training. His brother Clyde (Adam Driver) runs the local bar and spends his time espousing the myth of the Logan Curse, tracing a number of relatives who have met misfortune and suffered (his own being losing his hand in the Iraq war). Riley's Keough's Mellie completes the Logan clan as the boys' sister and inevitable partner in crime slash beauty pageant assistant.
When Jimmy gets fired again, he drags his brother back into the criminal world as he puts together a complicated plan to relieve the track of a small fortune. In order to break into the vault that receives all the racing day money, they enlist the services of expert safe cracker Joe Bang (Daniel Craig). Who just so happens to already be banged up for a previous crime. For very vague reasons they also pull in Fish and Sam Bang (Jack Quaid and Brian Gleeson) to assist.
Throw into the mix an obnoxious energy drink CEO in the form of Set MacFarlane's Max Chilblain, Jimmy's ex, Bobbie Jo Chapman (Katie Holmes) and Bobbie's new boorish car salesman husband Moody Chapman and... well, it just sort of ambles along really, throwing out weird characters, odd happenings and that cool soundtrack I mentioned earlier.
That's not to say Soderbergh's movie isn't enjoyable, it just seems to lack any real tension to keep it in focus. Characters come and go, seemingly dropped in for a bit of plot motivation or comic relief. Katherine Waterston drifts in at one point as a nurse who pretty much randomly offers Jimmy a tetanus shot for an injury he picked up in a manufactured bar fight with MacFarlane's character. Then disappears completely until the close of the movie. Equally, MacFarlane's character is there for no discernible reason other than to make me think that Family Guy really was a fluke.
The boys are good value as the central pair, they have an easy chemistry and no shortage of warmth on screen and this gels well with Keough who fits into the shenanigans without any hint of her just doing girl stuff. The plan is nicely put together and Craig has a whale of a time with a character a good deal less serious than anything he's touched for a long while.
The IMDB information for Rebecca Blunt suggests the writer may be a pseudonym and I'm willing to bet that the script was stuck together by a number of different people. It gets away with it due to Soderbergh's usual swaggering style but the script is all over the place really. It's long at the start and end, with the actual heist part taking up a seemingly smaller amount of time than just following the boys around. The end section seems bolted on as the FBI appear, in the form of Macon Blair and Hilary Swank, to investigate the robbery - the local law enforcement interest up to that point being a couple of hapless highway patrol cops who are misled into pulling over an old lady.
In fact, the majority of the movie is a series of comic sketches, loosely tied together by the boys and their heist. Tonally it's more of a comedy than anything else - an extended riot / hostage taking in the jail segues hilariously into a debate about George R. R. Martin's inability to keep pace with the TV series of Game of Thrones for example, but leaves the movie lacking any really gravitas. Punches are thrown with no sign of blood and only the odd black eye to show the after affects of any of the violence. The script however can't keep the laugh rate up and this leads the whole thing to be pretty bloodless in more than one way.
In the end, if this were any other director, Logan Lucky would have barely troubled the box office or anyone's interest. As it comes with a substantial amount of talent attached though, I feel justified in expecting more from this. It's engaging enough and manages to have Southerners without the jarring stereotypes that we've all become used to and has some nice performances, especially Farrah Mackenzie, but it's not really funny enough to be a comedy and doesn't have enough tension to be a great heist movie. Lacking impact all around, this is a diverting way to spend a couple of hours, though I'd be more inclined to like it if it had been about fifteen minutes shorter even then...