The Ocean’s Trilogy director Steven Soderbergh returns to the heist scene in a witty and stylish thriller with a terrific cast
After three years of retirement from the world of feature films, Steven Soderbergh has made a return to cinema – a comeback which many deem unsurprising.
Responsible for recent box office hits such as Contagion (2011) and Magic Mike (2012), his best-known movies are those of the Ocean’s Trilogy (2001-2007). With an outstanding ensemble cast which included George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, and Matt Damon, the Ocean’s series followed Clooney’s eponymous Danny Ocean and his audacious vault-breaking crew.
It seems as if the American director is attempting to kick start another heist series, in Logan Lucky. With yet again another impressive cast, spearheaded by Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, and Daniel Craig, the film follows Tatum and Driver’s Logan brothers, who with the assistance of Craig’s convict Joe Bang, seek to raid the Charlotte Motor Speedway during a NASCAR race in North Carolina.
Tatum’s Jimmy is unfairly fired after his superiors see him walking with a limp, and Driver’s Clyde – a one-armed Iraq war veteran – runs a small bar. As Jimmy’s former wife divulges her plan to move north to Lynchburg, taking their daughter Sadie with her, the Logan brothers hatch their plan. But in order to succeed, they must enlist the services of Craig’s former vault-breaker, and his two dim-witted but computer-savvy brothers.
To describe Logan Lucky as ‘Ocean’s Eleven but with rednecks’ would be unfair, but not wholly inaccurate. There is an abundance of similarities between the two movies, and there is even a small nod by the director towards this in a small reference to the Ocean’s films near the film’s conclusion.
Yet fortunately, the characters Soderbergh has engineered for Logan Lucky are much more intriguing and real than the flashy, arrogant and daredevil protagonists which are led by Clooney and Pitt. Tatum and Driver’s performances are understated and droll and are juxtaposed perfectly by Craig’s boisterous and garrulous Bang.
The Ocean’s films suffered from too many characters and not enough context to allow the audience to grow close to them. With Logan Lucky, Soderbergh appears to have learnt from this mistake and has gathered a smaller ensemble who are considerably more likeable.
The film does not have the tension or pace which would usually be associated with a heist movie, but it makes up for this with laughs and charmingly witty interactions between its characters. The family life and struggles of Jimmy Logan act as a grounding sub-plot, and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’s Katherine Waterston makes a cameo as a love interest for Tatum’s blue collar labourer.
It does, however, suffer from the occasional pitfall. The introduction of Hilary Swank’s FBI agent Grayson in the film’s third act feels belated and anti-climactic, and this is assumedly Soderbergh’s method of paving way for a sequel.
The climax of the robbery itself is also somewhat disappointing, landing nowhere near the level of relief or joy which heist films such as The Italian Job (1969) or the recently released Baby Driver induce.
Ultimately, though Logan Lucky is a thoroughly entertaining and at times hilarious caper, it, unfortunately, fails to quite keep its momentum running up to its resolution. It doesn’t have the heavy-hitting feel of Soderbergh’s Contagion or Che (2008), but thankfully avoids the Hollywood sheen and charade of the Ocean’s Trilogy.