Directed by Steven Soderbergh
At the tail end of the 80s Steven Soderbergh broke me. I don't think I've ever fully recovered. I remember seeing that one title standing out amongst dozens of others in the New Releases: Sex, Lies, and Videotape. I remember young me thinking "hey, those words add up to naked ladies!" and grabbing it off the shelf and fumbling with money at the counter. And a few hours later I was shaking and twitching and mumbling "nope, nope, nope" and "where the naked ladies?" and fumbling through my first existential crisis. Thanks, Mr. Soderbergh.
Ever since, when I see someone questioning their life, if it has any meaning or purpose or value, questioning their place in the universe and what it all means, I think back on young me expecting naked ladies and instead finding an utterly broken James Spader, and I give them a knowing glance. Thanks. Mr. Soderbergh.
And so it was that over the last couple of decades I would develop a Pavlovian response whenever I watched any project that Mr. Soderbergh was involved in. Could be the Ocean films or Haywire or Behind the Candelabra or Out of Sight or Magic Mike or whatever. If the name Steven Soderbergh is attached I always go in with some certainties: the film will look amazing and the editing with be peerless; the performances will be on an another level rarely seen in art films or popcorn films; things expected and unexpected will occur; and there's a good chance it could end with me on the floor, shaking and twitching and mumbling "nope, nope, nope" and "where the naked ladies?"
Thanks, Mr. Soderbergh.
And so it was that four years ago Mr. Soderbergh announced his retirement from feature directing. And I was saddened. But here we are talking about Logan Lucky. And according to IMDB, he has at least three more films in various states of production. Which makes me very happy, very happy indeed. Because there really is only one Steven Soderbergh, only one director who brings the art film to the blockbuster, who brings the popcorn to the art film. And there really is only one director who can get as much star power as he does into a modestly budgeted film. Since we're here talking about Logan Lucky already, let's take a look at the cast. On a budget of about twenty nine million dollars, roughly the catering budget on most blockbusters, Lucky Logan features James Bond and Kylo Ren, one of Batman's girlfriends and the Winter Soldier, Seth MacFarlane, Dwight Yokam, LeAnn Rimes, and Channing Tatum. Plus all kinds of faces you may recognize depending on your level of NASCAR geekdom. Rare indeed is the director who is trusted and respected enough to pull together some kind rogue's gallery of some of the most recognizable faces working today. Even rarer is the director that trusts the actors they're working with to do what they are best at while having as much fun as possible.
And Jesus Christ on a trampoline are these folks having fun.
Logan Lucky is, on its surface, an Ocean's 7-Eleven, as it refers to itself in a brilliant meta moment. Channing Tatum's Jimmy Logan, organizes a low tech, rubber bands and popsicle sticks heist of the Charlotte Motor Speedway. With the assistance of his brother Clyde, played by Adam Driver, and his sister Mellie, played by Riley Keough, they put together a team and a plan. Clyde is convinced the Logans are cursed. Jimmy was a promising football player until he wrecked his leg, now he's a man who can't keep a job or a marriage. Clyde, a bartender at one of those out of the way bars found across rural America, was at the end of his tour in Iraq when he lost his forearm. Mellie, a hairdresser, is far more pragmatic than her older brothers and centred. What Logan Lucky is about under the surface is the Forgotten American, those folks who have been left behind as technology and corporate bureaucracy have moved on. But instead of gnashing their teeth and cursing their fate, these Forgotten Americans decide to do something for themselves. Consider that Logan Lucky is set in the birthplace of stock car racing, when bootleggers ran whiskey during Prohibition, and it kinda makes sense that the Logans and their associates would turn to crime like their forefathers.
Logan Lucky is a Steven Soderbergh film so to tell you that it looks amazing or that the camera moves fluidly and confidently or that the film is edited like no other is all kinds of redundant. If you've watched even one of Mr. Soderbergh's films you know what I'm talking about. Chances are pretty strong that if you live anywhere on this planet you have sat through Oceans's 11 at least once, so, yeah, you know what I'm talking about here. Logan Lucky looks like a Soderbergh film, which means every frame is perfectly lit but lit like no other frame in any other film by any other director. It is a strange and wonderful thing to be able to say things like "of course it looks wonderful and perfect" like it's the most natural, expected thing in the world.
What is unexpected about Logan Lucky is Daniel Craig. In some of the trailers and in the credits for the movie, there is a jokey credit that states "And Introducing Daniel Craig". But it isn't too far from the truth. I'm not the first person to write about this, I'm sure. Daniel Craig's persona is Serious Actor, Master Thespian. To see Daniel Craig, Comedic Actor, is like seeing the birth of something new. It really is an introduction to a different Daniel Craig, especially if your only exposure to him has been as Bond. When you look back at his brilliant career, Road To Perdition, Munich, Layer Cake, Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, there's not a lot of room for comedy. And to discover that Daniel Craig is not only a master of comedic timing, but to rediscover Daniel Craig, Character Actor, is like finding caramel inside of a chocolate cake. Are you kidding me, I exclaim, it can't get better but it does. I usually yell that while giggling like a school boy. My apologies to anyone in the theatre.
Anyway. Daniel Craig really is the MVP of Logan Lucky. Channing Tatum may be the leader with his ethereal charisma, but it really is Daniel Craig's showpiece. His Joe Bang, safecracker extraordinaire, is a complete character from the inside out. There is a complete absence of the Daniel Craig's twitches that we have seen throughout his run as Bond. He's not only changed his accent, he also changed the timbre and tone of his voice, the way he holds his hands, the way he walks. It is a complete performance, a complete transformation. Mr. Craig's talents as a pure character actor have largely been forgotten, but I'm pretty sure some of the folks reading this are trying to remember him in Road To Perdition, in Munich. What I'm trying to get at here is don't surprised if Mr. Craig's name is among the nominees for Best Supporting Actor come Oscar season.
So, yeah, I really did enjoy Logan Lucky and if you've made it this far, I'm pretty sure you will. Where does it rank among the Soderbergh canon? I don't know yet. I can't say. Maybe we'll discuss that over adult beverages one day. Go, see Logan Lucky. It needs to be seen. It really is a fun, entertaining, funny ride that made me shed some manly tears. Thank-you, Mr. Soderbergh.