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Movie Review: Logan Lucky

Welcome back to the big screen Mr. Soderbergh.

By Sean PatrickPublished 7 years ago 6 min read
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Being a fan of the American history podcast The Dollop allows me to watch a movie like Logan Lucky and never for a moment find the story implausible. Take a listen to them tell the remarkable true story titled Jet-Pack Madness and you will find within it a story every bit as brilliant as a Coen Brothers comedy. Everything in Logan Lucky feels completely plausible when you compare it to such historic silliness as what transpired with the Jet-Pack or the L.A Freeway Shootout or The Human Taco.

The Dollop has nothing to do with Logan Lucky but I could not help thinking of how Dave Anthony and Gareth Reynolds would tell this story if it were true. I imagine it would be just as good as the movie Steven Soderbergh has made, a crazy story of crime, family, pride, NASCAR, and the South. That Logan Lucky is also a heist movie is nearly incidental, as if these characters existing as they do might make for a good enough story but that they happen to pulling off a multi-million dollar NASCAR-themed heist certainly makes things even more colorful.

The Logan family is cursed or at least that is what little brother Clyde Logan (Adam Driver) believes and he would be happy to regale you with his tragic family background while he pours beer at a West Virginia bar called Duck-Tape. Older brother Jimmy (Channing Tatum) doesn’t buy into the curse, though Clyde’s point is understandable, he’s just back from losing an arm in Iraq while Jimmy lost a scholarship to play Quarterback at LSU when he blew out his knee and just as we meet him, Jimmy is fired from his job working construction underneath the famed Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Nevertheless, Jimmy doesn’t buy into Clyde’s curse talk, especially since he’s decided to pull off a multi-million-dollar vault heist and doesn't need the bad juju on his mind right now. Having been fired from his job where he operated an earth mover beneath the famed North Carolina race track, Jimmy has found out where all the money from the stadium concessions goes and how it gets there. The only thing standing in his way is the vault but Jimmy happens to know a guy who can help, if they can get him out of prison.

Daniel Craig co-stars in Logan Lucky as Joe Bang, a master of blowing up bank vaults. He’s been incarcerated for several years since his last blown vault and is fairly skeptical when the Logan brothers show up at the prison to invite him to join their heist. The scene of Joe and the Logan’s meeting at the prison is one of the best sequences in Steven Soderbergh’s lengthy career of memorable sequences. The shorthand these characters have with one another, the complete lack of setup, or need for introductions, the way we are thrust into an ongoing, not particularly friendly relationship, is a lot of fun and rather refreshing when you spend as much time as a critic does listening to introductions and exposition.

The dialogue passing from Joe and the Logans is simply sublime. Craig’s Bang is smart, sociopathic and grounded. In many ways, Joe is the audience analog. We’re skeptical of the Logan brothers as well. Their manner and accents play on stereotypes we have of southern rednecks, especially those with a criminal background. Soderbergh loves to use modern stereotypes against his audience in both character and dialogue in order to keep us guessing about his story and characters and that is gleefully on display in Logan Lucky.

In prepping for this review I re-watched Sex, Lies and Videotape, Soderbergh’s instant classic debut. Watching that movie I noticed immediately the way in which every line of dialogue from James Spader is either awkward or provocative. He doesn’t seem to speak like a normal person and while we come to find that his character is practicing a form of radical honesty, years before such a thing became a sociological fad, I believe Spader’s manner, his way of speaking is intended not just as a character trait but as a way of jarring the audience to pay closer attention to the character

While you may be aghast at his unusual way of speaking, you can’t help but lean in to listen closer as he speaks. Later in the film, when Spader confesses that he is impotent while speaking to Andie McDowell’s prudish, cheated on wife character, we watch as she leans in to listen closer to Spader because she, like us, may be put off by him but we’re also strangely attracted to his boundary busting honesty. Her intrigue is deeply sensual as she begins to ask questions and seems to be stroking the stem of her wine glass in a less than prudent fashion while he speaks.

There is a specific unusual quality to all or most of Soderbergh’s characters, even his mainstream movie characters. Watch Erin Brockovich and the use of Erin's breasts as both a fashion choice and a plot device. This would be an example of sexism in many other movies, but Soderbergh finds the quirky way in which Erin accentuates and employs her body endearing to the point where her using her looks to move the plot forward, as she does a little past the midpoint of the film, it becomes both a character trait and a commentary on simplistic male attitudes regarding the female body.

The quirks of Soderbergh’s characters aren’t always so obvious, but they are almost always present and they serve a purpose. Soderbergh views every scene as a story in and of itself and looks to get the most out of each through dialogue, costume, action, and just simply the look on an actors’ face. It’s not so much perfectionism, though there is some of that, rather it is that rare form of attention to detail that all of the truly great directors have.

The character quirks of Logan Lucky are mostly expressed through accents. Adam Driver’s take on a West Virginia accent is absolutely brilliant. Listen to the way he seems to play Clyde as choosing his words carefully and then over-pronouncing them as if each word were something important to him. I will point you specifically to his pronunciation of the word ‘Cauliflower’ which is both an unusual code word and a word that Driver turns into the single funniest joke in a surprisingly riotous movie.

Channing Tatum’s Jimmy is not a typical character for a comedy. He’s a good-hearted guy just trying to be there for his daughter after winding up divorced from her mother, played by Katie Holmes. Jimmy’s warmth and understated charm never play broad, Tatum doesn’t play up the accent and doesn’t seem to be grasping for any specific comic intent and yet he’s quite funny. He’s a serious, grounded, believable character who just happens to be in the path of a world that seems determined to leave him behind. Everyone underestimates Jimmy, even us in the audience, and Soderbergh and Tatum delight in our underestimation.

Riley Keogh rounds out the main cast as Jimmy and Clyde’s loyal little sister who may be the smartest most together person in the whole movie. Keough is as grounded and realistic as Jimmy even as her gum popping, tightly dressed, hair and makeup artist has similarly broad qualities as Driver and his missing arm and outré’ accent. Keogh recalls some of Marisa Tomei’s tough girl schtick from My Cousin Vinny, with her very feminine qualities causing important, short-sighted people to underestimate her in ways she brilliantly exploits.

There is a cameo late in Logan Lucky to keep an eye out for. It leads to one of the best and strangely poignant gags in the movie. Trust me, this actress is here for a reason and it plays out beautifully. Then again, pretty much everything in Logan Lucky plays out beautifully.

After several years away from the camera, at least one intended for theatrical use rather than television, Soderbergh’s has lost none of his mastery for scene-setting, the effective use of dialogue to flesh out characters and subtly move the story forward, and wildly clever plotting. The cast is pitch perfect, but Soderbergh’s direction is why you should see Logan Lucky.

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About the Creator

Sean Patrick

Hello, my name is Sean Patrick He/Him, and I am a film critic and podcast host for the I Hate Critics Movie Review Podcast I am a voting member of the Critics Choice Association, the group behind the annual Critics Choice Awards.

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