TL;DR – Logan Lucky is equal measures fascinating and boring, with a heavy dose of Sothern Americana on top.
Score – 2.5 out of 5 stars
I love heist films, indeed there are so many facets of them that I find really fascinating. I love the setup, the betrayals, oh and you better believe a love a good double and triple crosses, I love the prep work, the crime, the hustle and the con, and that point where everything inevitably goes wrong. I think it is safe to say that everyone has seen a heist film at some point, from both Ocean’s, Die Hard, The Thomas Crown Affair, if you haven’t the good folks over at CineFix have you covered. So I was really intrigued going in to see Logan Lucky, especially with a name like Steven Soderbergh at the helm, who has a long history of fantastic films in this genre. However as I walked out of the cinema, I was left feeling perplexed, confused and honestly, more than a little underwhelmed.
So to set the scene, Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) is someone who is trying his best to make a future for himself and his daughter Sadie (Farrah Mackenzie) who lives with her mother Bobbie Jo (Katie Holmes), but he keeps getting screwed over by life. His brother Clyde (Adam Driver) who lost a hand, not an arm, in Iraq, calls it the Logan curse because they are all unlucky, hence the title of the film. Well after Jimmy was fired from his job helping build tunnels under the Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina, not for anything he did, he was a good worker, but because he has a bad knee and HR thinks he could be an insurance risk, I think today more than ever I am deeply glad I live in a country that does not have America’s health system. So what does he do? Well, he rounds up his brother, and sister Mellie (Riley Keough) and Sam Bang (Daniel Craig), and his brothers Fish (Jack Quaid) and Joe (Brian Gleeson). What is their plan? Well, it is to rob that very same Speedway, but there is a slight complication Sam is in Jail, and no one else has robbed a safe before.
You know when I was thinking about this film I got flash backs to last week’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (review) because like Logan Lucky it had things that really worked for it and then the things that really didn’t. So from this point onwards, we are first going to look at everything that did work, and then everything else that didn’t, and since we will be discussing the film as a whole, we will be engaging [SPOILERS] from this point onwards.
Logan Lucky is a film full of some truly absurd moments, that sometimes hit and other times fall flat, but when they hit they are amazing. There is a long diatribe in the middle of the movie about George RR Martin and how long he is taking to write his Game of Thrones novels, which is so on point it was amazing to watch. There is the absurdity of watching Sam Bang build a bomb, sorry explosive device, from common over the counter items, which they show in full detail, but then have him have to explain it all chemically because the Logan boys have no idea what is going on, as they were expecting a stick of dynamite. As well as this, I think it was safe to say everyone in the cast gave good performances, but also more importantly believable performances. It was good to see Channing Tatum take on a different role than he usually does and gave a performance to match, and it was nice to see Jim O’Heir in a feature film. From a story perspective, there is the moment in the second act where they are actually going through with the heist and this is where Steven Soderbergh is at his best. Indeed the whole film has well filmed with a nice emphasis on single shot sequences, and overall the cinematography was really good.
As well as this, rural southern America was an interesting place to set this film. It is an area that was badly affected by the Global Financial Crisis, and the growing automation of the mining industry is not helping, nor is the fall in coal prices as nations switch to other forms of power. This means we have a setting that is a far distance away from many of the other films you see in this genre, and this helps the narrative, because it is normal people, for the most part, trying to make things a little better for themselves. It also allows for discourses and iconography that you would just not get if you set your films elsewhere in America. Though for the life of me I still don’t know what the fascination is with children beauty pageants is.
While all of this is good, or at least interesting, it’s not enough to help fix the two big issues with the film, which just so happens to be the start and the end of the film. I don’t mind the slow build as a narrative technique, indeed I have found films like Arrival (review) have used the slow build to wonderfully build tension. However, there is a slow build and then there is the pre-climate change glacial sloooooooow build that is Logan Lucky. So much at the start of the film is about Jimmy pottering around in different places and most of it was inconsequential. But that is manageable because thankfully we do eventually move into the heist phase of the film. However, that can’t help the end of the film that is just a real let down.
Now we said there would be spoilers but we will be discussing how the film ends so let this be your final [SPOILER] warning. So after the heist, Jimmy decides to leave all the stolen money in their stolen truck and anonymously call it into the police, so no one got the money. So everyone gets really pissed at him, and we see Agent Sarah Grayson (Hilary Swank) investigate the heist. This goes on for quite a while and leads nowhere because just joking it is all a ruse, which the Bang Brothers were not in the loop on. Now I like a good reveal just as much as the next person, but for it to work it needs to make sense. Unless I missed something in the first two acts, there were nothing to set the double cross up, indeed many of the secret reveals made little sense and had me perplexed. Then the film ends with the question of if the Speedway was complicit in some way, or just trying to cover their asses which was odd, and then we end on Agent Grayson coming into the bar and watching everyone toast their success. This is where the movie ends, is she about to arrest them, is she there to congratulate them, is she there to let them know that she is one to them, well we’ll never know because cut to black, this is almost like the opposite of the Inception spinner.
As well as this, we have weird things, like blatant product placement, that is then used to show how much of a douche a character is, which begs the question did Ford pay to get dunked on for a whole film, or was that what they wanted to make the product placement less obnoxious. Also, we have Seth MacFarlane in his most insufferable character to date, and whose subplot with Sebastian Stan adds nothing to the movie really in the end.
In the end, can we recommend Logan Lucky, yes and no, it has its moments, and when it is actually heisting it is really good, there is just so much to wade through around that. This is one of those films that I wish I could give better praise to, because I can see a lot of work has gone into it by a lot of people, but unfortunately it just didn’t do it for me.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Logan Lucky
Directed by – Steven Soderbergh
Written by – Rebecca Blunt
Edited by – ‘Mary Ann Bernard’
Music by – David Holmes
Cinematography by – ‘Peter Andrews’
Starring – Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Daniel Craig, Riley Keough, Farrah Mackenzie, Brian Gleeson, Jack Quaid, Katie Holmes, Seth MacFarlane, Katherine Waterston, Dwight Yoakam, Sebastian Stan, David Denman, Jim O’Heir & Hilary Swank
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: PG; Germany: na; New Zealand: M; United Kingdom: na; United States: PG-13