A few years ago director Steven Soderbergh made no secret of his waning passion for filmmaking. He announced his intention to retire from feature films following the release of 2013's Behind the Candelabra and cited his desire to pursue other creative interests. Well, it may have taken four years (and a brief stint directing TV's The Knick) to reignite his filmmaking passion, but Soderbergh proves his hand behind the camera is as assured as ever in the rollicking heist caper Logan Lucky.
Aptly described by Soderbergh himself as an "anti-glam version of an Ocean's movie", Logan Lucky is a return to the style of filmmaking that made his Ocean's trilogy box office hits. The film moves at a neat pace, features a strong ensemble cast and is packed with enough twist and turns to keep things interesting throughout its two hour running time.
The story follows the Logan family, brothers Jimmy (Channing Tatum) and Clyde (Adam Driver) and their sister Mellie Logan (Riley Keough), who are known for their family history of bad-luck. After loosing his job at a mine located underneath the Charlotte Motor Speedway, Jimmy plans to pull of an elaborate heist to put the Logan's financial woes behind them and break the family curse. With intricate knowledge of a series of underground tubes that run from the Speedway to a central bank vault filled with millions of dollars, Jimmy sees the perfect opening to rob the vault during a NARSCAR race. To pull it off, he enlists the help of his siblings along with bomb expert Joe Bang (a scene stealing Daniel Craig) and his two brothers, Sam (Brian Gleeson) and Fish Bang (Jack Quaid). The only problem: Joe's in prison. So on top of concocting a plan to steal the cash, they'll need to figure out a way to break Joe out of prison and get him back with no one the wiser. No pressure.
It's a zany comedy about unremarkable characters punching well above their weight but through sheer luck managing to pull things off. Half the fun of the film is seeing things not happening to plan but somehow working out in the end. To its credit, the film never treats itself too seriously and invites you to laugh along with the character's mishaps and the farcical parts of the story are frequently the funniest. One gag involving a prison riot and a jab at Game of Thrones writer George R.R. Martin's glacial writing pace is as screwy as it is funny.
For the most part, the film moves along at a nice pace. Just like in the Ocean's films, Soderbergh (who edits his own film) employs slick, fast cut editing to keep the heist scenes interesting and involving. He also manages to make good use of an impressive ensemble cast, with the likes of Seth MacFarlane, Katie Holmes, Katherine Waterston and Sebastian Stan all making minor but memorable appearances. And while Adam Driver and Channing Tatum both give impressive performances, the standout is an almost unrecognisable Daniel Craig playing blue-collar criminal Joe Bang. An explosions expert sporting a heavy southern accent and bright blonde hair, he's an anti-glam version of Bond if you will. It's Craig's impeccable comedic timing that will make you wish the Bond films would let him exercise his comedic chops a little bit more.
It's only in the last act that the film starts to feel a little played out. The introduction of Hillary Swank as a Special Agent in the last 20 minutes of the film feels a little rushed and ultimately doesn't really go anywhere. Instead, the story continues through a number of false endings, not entirely sure when to bring down the curtain.
Overall, as the first feature to draw Soderbergh out of semi-retirement, Logan Lucky is clearly something he wanted to make and his passion comes through in the final product. Produced entirely on his own and without studio interference, Logan Lucky inverts the glamour and opulence of the Ocean's trilogy without loosing the series' trademark quirks and high entertainment value. If Logan Lucky is intended to act as sort of push-back of the Hollywood system and studio meddling, then Soderbergh has succeeded at both proving a point and making you laugh while doing it.