Director Steven Soderbergh returns to feature filmmaking with Logan Lucky. Is Soderbergh still at the top of his game or has TV work dulled his cinematic edge?
Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) is a down on his luck former athlete who just lost his construction job at Charlotte Motor Speedway. His daughter, Sadie (Farrah Mackenzie), is an aspiring beauty queen, while his ex-wife, Bobbie Jo (Katie Holmes), is planning to move farther away from Jimmy with her new husband, Moody (David Denman). Jimmy’s brother, Clyde (Adam Driver), lost his arm while serving in the military and is now a bartender, convinced the Logan Family is cursed. Their sister, Mellie (Riley Keough), is a hairdresser, loving aunt, and mean driver. In order to solve his money problems, Jimmy hatches a plan to use his knowledge of the Speedway to rob it. However, in order to get into the vault, the Logans will need the help of Joe Bang (Daniel Craig), who is currently incarcerated. Will Jimmy’s plan go off without a hitch, or will he and his family fall prey to a tenacious FBI agent (Hilary Swank)?
Logan Lucky is very similar to Soderbergh’s Ocean’s films in that it’s a heist film with a colorful cast of characters. However, while Logan Lucky’s characters are oftentimes hilarious, the film is neither as tight nor as consistently funny as Ocean’s Eleven. That doesn’t mean that Logan Lucky isn’t a good movie—it’s very fun and funny—it’s just not Steven Soderbergh’s best. There are a lot of characters that show up in this film that seem to serve little to no purpose. It almost feels like the film was supposed to be a half an hour longer in order to let the story and the characters breathe a little. The film also suffers, I think, from the lack of a strong antagonist. All the Ocean’s films had a chief antagonist that served as the crew’s target—yes, I know that in Ocean’s Twelve the crew itself is targeted, but you get my meaning. However, in Logan Lucky, the antagonist is more nebulous. Swank’s FBI agent comes into the film too late to qualify and while Jimmy’s job loss is definitely a compelling problem, the audience never sees any outside stimulus that makes it necessary for him to steal a ton of money NOW. Yes, Bobbie Jo is trying to move farther away with their daughter, which will make it harder for Jimmy to see her, but once his ex-wife reveals she has full custody, that’s pretty much the end of that. There is definitely a time limit on the heist due to the construction job Jimmy was a part of coming to an end, but there’s no real personal urgency to the proceedings. Also, Jimmy seemed to have this plan just sitting in a drawer somewhere, just waiting for the opportunity to use it, which felt a bit odd.
The best part of the film is easily the cast. Tatum and Driver make a great duo. Their banter is very good and funny. Keough is great, because she’s clearly the sharpest and most resourceful of the three. That makes her a deceptively strong female character in a film that’s driven mainly by male characters. Jack Quaid and Brian Gleeson put in fun performances as Joe Bang’s brothers and Katherine Waterston is fine as Sylvia, Jimmy’s classmate from high school. The problem with the Sylvia character, though, is that she’s one of these characters that serves no real purpose. She literally bumps into Jimmy on the street and they re-connect in one scene. The true star of the film, however, is Daniel Craig as Joe Bang. The character is so different from anything Craig has played and it’s clear he’s having a ball playing him. Also, in a great bit part, Dwight Yoakam is hilarious as the prison warden.
Overall, Logan Lucky is a fun, but slightly muddled, film with an excellent cast. It’s great to see Soderbergh return to feature filmmaking and I look forward to seeing what he comes up with next.