Logan Lucky review – just enough knock about comedy, funny dialogue and weirdness to keep most audiences on board
Someone should explain to Steven Soderbergh the meaning of the word retirement. To most, it does not mean produce films, direct an acclaimed — if short lived — TV series and act as cinematographer for the follow up to your men in the buff dance hit.
The first film Steven Soderbergh film since his “retirement” sees him once again jumping from genre to genre like a channel surfing child. It’s incredible to think that a man of Soderbergh’s talent has pretty much done every genre imaginable, from historical true stories, to thrillers, comedies, erotic dramas, action films, and comic inflected biopics to films that approach horror at times. Logan Lucky comes at us like the anti-Ocean film in that it’s less about the slick world of bank heists and about something much more personal.
The so-called unlucky Logan boys Channing Tatum and Adam Driver are brothers who, along with convict Joe Bang (Daniel Craig) his two brothers and the Logan’s sister Riley Keogh, attempt to rob the Coca Cola speedway race.
The film is, luckily, funny. It’s tone is light and breezy and never forgets that this has the air of something very easy going at all times, and with everyone doing their thickest southern drawls it’s hard not to think you’re watching the strangest reboot of The Dukes of Hazard. Soderbergh shoots the film perfectly and edits like a champ, knowing what makes tension, comedy and basic human drama. The man is one of the finest working directors and is clearly having a blast directing this caper.
It helps that the screenplay by Rebecca Blunt is both sharp when it needs to be but also inflected with some of the Coen Brothers flair for sillyness. Some of her dialogue is funny, and works because it does feel like the way people might genuinely talk. In fact the best gags in the film are conversations about Rihanna’s Umbrella being a metaphor for her vagina, or about the release date of a Game of Thrones book.
The film is also surprisingly subversive, considering that this is normally a one woman show genre. It’s great that there are five ladies front and centre all with personal motivations and characters. It also helps that they set up Craig’s Joe Bang as a neo-nazi looking wild card, who ends up being surprisingly level headed and committed even if he is interested in the Logan sister.
Across the board the cast are great, even those with limited screen time. Front and centre is Channing Tatum, who does the every man role so well you can’t help but root for him to win. His downbeat but ultimately good guy is the perfect foil to a Danny Ocean type, he’s not a slick guy in a suit, he’s a weekend dad who wants to impress his daughter, while Adam Driver as one arm (my mistake, hand) had great deadpan style comedy. The film spends ages enjoying his serious face as he barely changes facial expression despite what situation is going on.
Riley Keough is great as the gorgeous hair dressing sister, someone who has her own mind and cares deeply about her niece if nothing else. Managing to turn herself into a true star Keogh is shaping up to be more than just Elvis’ granddaughter and become a proper star. Around them, though small roles, are great players in Katie Holmes as rich trailer trash looking former wife to Tatum, Katherine Waterston as the some wasted doctor friend to Tatum, Dwight Yoakam as an inept warden, Brian Gleeson and Jack Quaid as the yokel brothers to Craig.
But Craig steals the film. As bleach blonde bomb maker Joe Bang, Daniel Craig is clearly having fun and gives easily his best performance since a work like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, this reminds you that in his early days of Enduring Love he was a truly inspirational actor and not someone who threatened suicide when offered another Bond film. It’s clear he needed a break from the big blockbusters and in Joe Bang he gives an oscar worthy comic performance, relishing the tattoos, southern drawl and chance to cut loose in a way his Bond days never allow. Like Pierce Brosnan in The Matador after Bond, this is Craig having a blast and the campaign for an Oscar nod starts now.
There are missteps; the film is about twenty minutes longer than it should be, and falls into an overly twisty double cross narrative that it didn’t need to be, and many of the smaller characters don’t work quite as well. In fact, as great as Hilary Swank is, her FBI agent could be cut wholesale and the film wouldn’t suffer, as could Sebastian Stan’s clean living racer and Seth MacFarlane’s arrogant British business, neither of those two roles are that funny, and in particular McFarlane’s seems to lose the reason he’s doing the voice very quickly.
As it is the film is a fun way to spend an afternoon, easily getting by on the charm of it’s leads, and even at half an hour too long the film never feels like a slog, there’s just enough knock about comedy, funny dialogue and weirdness to keep most audiences on board for the running time. Mr Soderbergh, perhaps retirement isn’t for you.
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