When Steven Soderbergh announced his ‘retirement’ in 2013, going out on the double strike of pharmaceutical thriller Side Effects and Liberace biopic Behind the Candelabra, few of us believed him. It seems spending time pottering about in the garden, in between directing his TV period medical drama The Knick, didn’t agree with the filmmaker, who makes his return to cinema screens a mere four years later with the all-star white trash heist movie (Riffraffi?) Logan Lucky.
From the opening scene, in which a goateed Channing Tatum discusses the merits of John Denver while working on a car engine, it’s clear we’re not in for a subtle depiction of life in its West Virginia setting. Tatum is Jimmy Logan, as close to a protagonist as Logan Lucky can boast of among its roster of crudely drawn Southern stereotypes. Limping like James Garner in the final season of The Rockford Files, Jimmy loses his job at a coal mine, making his struggles to pay alimony and child support to his ex-wife (Katie Holmes) even more difficult.
Along with his hairdressing sister Mellie (a wasted Riley Keough) and bartender brother Clyde (a somnambulistic Adam Driver), the latter a veteran with a prosthetic arm, Jimmy concocts a scheme to rob the vault of the Charlotte Speedway track. To pull it off he must enlist the currently incarcerated Joe Bang (Daniel Craig), an expert in busting open bank vaults.
With Logan Lucky, Soderbergh and screenwriter Rebecca Blunt appear to be paying homage to the redneck exploitation movies of the ‘70s - which depending on budget, usually starred either Burt Reynolds or Bo Hopkins - but the cartoonish portrayal of rural American life comes off as patronising at best, offensive at worst. The male characters are little more than a series of macho tics, while the women, all big hair and tight skirts, serve as background decoration, proving female screenwriters are just as capable of writing awful roles for their gender as their more numerous male counterparts. Other characters, or rather caricatures, drift around the periphery of the narrative, none more irritating than Seth MacFarlane as a cockney energy drinks magnate whose role in the drama I’m still trying to make sense of.
As a heist movie, Logan Lucky fails to create enough conflict, with the Logans’ plans going off with nary a hitch. What few obstacles appear in their path are dispensed within seconds. There’s never a sense that these people are out of their depth, and the Speedway is laughably devoid of security. The movie keeps telling us how the Logans are jinxed, but never shows us much evidence of this. As a comedy, it’s devoid of witty dialogue and amusing scenarios, relying on sub Coen Bros gurning from its cast.
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There’s a subplot about Jimmy’s love for his young daughter Sadie (Farrah Mackenzie), but we only see this in the opening scene, which makes a final act sequence set during a school pageant, in which Sadie sings her father’s favorite song (I’ll let you guess which John Denver standard it is), completely unearned and a cheap exploitation of musical sentiment. I almost forgot about the doctor played by Katherine Waterston, who appears in one scene yet is posited as a love interest for Jimmy. The over-riding sense throughout Logan Lucky is of watching a high profile cable TV show that has chopped 10 episodes’ worth of material down to just two hours.
With Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Eleven remake it felt like we were watching a bunch of friends having fun making a movie, and that enthusiasm somewhat translated to the audience. With Logan Lucky you similarly get the sense that everyone involved was having a blast, but this one’s no fun for the viewer. Was retirement really that bad Steven?
Logan Lucky 1 1/2 Stars out of 5
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh. Starring: Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Daniel Craig, Riley Keough, Seth MacFarlane, Hilary Swank, Katherine Waterston, Sebastian Stan, Katie Holmes
originally published: 2017-08-22 14:05:23
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