Logan Lucky is Steven Soderberg’s first film since he unretired from filmmaking (he had announced his retirement after Behind the Candelabra.) He has taken to a new model for making films, which involved personally selling the overseas rights to bypass the Hollywood hassles. Up until this point Soderberg had been busy with directing two seasons of The Knick, working on the TV version of The Girlfriend Experience and other television work, including some Netflix projects, and shooting but not directing Magic Mike XXL.
This film finds Soderberg treading some slightly familiar ground. It’s a heist film involving a group of people, so there are some similarities to Ocean’s 11, which he also directed—but it’s slightly better, and much better than the two awful sequels of that movie. Channing Tatum plays Jimmy Logan, a working-class guy who works construction but used to be a football player, and a massive John Denver fan. Logan’s ex-wife has threatened to move away with his kid, and he needs some money. He enlists his brother Clyde (Adam Driver), a bartender who lost his arm in Iraq, and their sister Mellie (Riley Keough). They draw in an explosives expert, who is played by Danial Craig, but he’s in jail. The plan is to get him out of jail, rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway on the busiest racing day of the year, and get him back into the prison afterwards. The result is an insane robbery plan—and Logan has to make it to his daughter’s pageant immediately after the robbery. To top it off, the family is supposed to be cursed, so they need some luck.
It’s a real blast of a film, made more interesting because the leads aren’t the glossy high rollers of Ocean’s 11. It’s also an expertly cast film—I don’t think Daniel Craig has ever been better than in this role as a hick explosives expert. Seth McFarland also turns in a fun performance as Max Chilblain, this absolutely ridiculous NASCAR team owner using a brilliantly awful British accent. It would make a great double bill with Hell or High Water because they both show a similar side of the American South.
The heist is fantastic with loads of great twists and turns, especially at the end. There’s a lot of screwball comedy: it’s a funny script with loads of great gags, and a film that you could easily imagine the Coen Brothers making. Soderberg is roughly the same age and they have tended to work with some of the same actors, so that’s no real surprise.
It might have been a safe choice for Soderberg to choose for his return, but it’s a smart one for a director who has done some “out there” movies as well. Lucky Logan is a fun, madcap heist film with a strong cast, especially Channing Tatum, who many people have wrongly written off as a pretty boy. In this he proves that he can indeed act, and Soderberg gets the best out of him. The script was written by Rebecca Blunt, a mysterious figure who some people believe to be a pseudonym for Soderberg’s wife, Jules Asner. Given Soderberg’s own history of using pseudonyms, including “Sam Lowry” as his writer’s credit name, the theory seems plausible.
For whatever reason, the standard Blu-Ray includes just deleted scenes as extras. However, if you get it via iTunes, it comes with an interview with Soderberg as well.