Logan Lucky (2017) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Logan Lucky (2017)

Please join the Twitch stream at Can't Stop the Kittens. Andrew's writing is on hiatus, but you can join the kitty stream at night with gaming and conversation during the day.

The Logan brothers have had a bad run of luck.  Jimmy limps from an on-the-job injury and Clyde lost most of his arm in the Iraq war.  Tired of being treated like the sum of their injuries, Jimmy and Clyde launch an ambitious scheme to rob NASCAR during a packed race.  Steven Soderbergh directs Logan Lucky, with the screenplay written by Rebecca Blunt, and stars Channing Tatum and Adam Driver.

Even in the age of global internet connections, there exists patches of the United States where the big dream is to get a car and drive away.  Steven Soderbergh builds on this still-present hope with a lovely opening scene.  Jimmy (Channing Tatum) waxes poetic on the story behind one of his favorite songs to his daughter Sadie (Farrah Mackenzie).  His truck looks gigantic in the initial low angle, and as Jimmy tells his story Soderbergh's camera pulls back to the reality.  Here's a man, whose truck will barely get him to work let alone away from Virginia, and he's still doing his damnedest to ensure his daughter is knowledgeable and strong in more than one way.

Logan Lucky has its share of lingering problems associated with the south, like the utter lunacy of beauty pageants for children.  But this is a world away from The Dukes of Hazzard with that schlocky show's unavoidably racist connotations.  Soderbergh crafts a class struggle, where the comedy comes more from pain than cleverness, about two men tired of the run of luck life's saddled them with and deciding that their dreams deserve more action than a list up on the fridge.  It's a messy white working class fantasy, and one that packs an unexpectedly righteous punch by the end.

It sometimes feels that Steven Soderbergh is hamstrung by heist films when the reality shows he's just damn great at them.

Since Soderbergh is back in his usual capacity - that being, doing everything possible behind the camera - the visuals aren't as immediately grabbing as his cinematography work in Magic Mike XXL.  That suits Logan Lucky's rugged charm though, with that early conversation between Jimmy and Sadie transitioning comfortably into the cramped dustiness of the tunnels Jimmy spends his time in.  There's a snap to the power flexing that recalls the Coen Brothers, with a handful of men behind desks that get the same low-angle treatment as Jimmy's truck.  Time and again, Jimmy and brother Clyde (Adam Driver) are stymied by men complacent with their bit of power expressed by Soderbergh in those large firm surfaces.

Soderbergh does stretch the plausibility of his film a bit too far for jokes.  Warden Burns (Dwight Yoakam, wonderfully dry) and his pride figure large into the Logan brothers' plan.  But the idea the predominantly black population of Warden Burns' prison wouldn't have a full riot squad called on them the moment they revolt is anachronistic to the United States, even with the progress we've collectively made.  Still, I wouldn't trade the hilariously flat conversation between the warden and inmates complete with perhaps too-clever incredulity over the fact that George R.R. Martin hasn't finished A Song of Ice and Fire.

Where the plotting sometimes falters the performances are top-shelf.  Tatum has become such a steady hand at this kind of semi-farcical comedy (as shown in both Jump Street films) that I've come to respect his sensitivity in smaller moments, like the respect he shows his daughter's questions.  His chemistry with Driver is delightful, both playing just dumb enough to give the audience cause for worry about their plan while hinging its success on their brotherly shorthand.  I wish Riley Keough, as sister Mellie, had more to do considering how respectfully Rebecca Blunt writes Sadie, but her sarcastic edge fits in lovingly with the rest of the Logans.

The holy trinity of Logan Lucky, and the biggest laughs, come from its bit players.  Hilary Swank, in particular, seems to be having the time of her life.  She plays her FBI agent like a more comfortable Clarice Starling, simultaneously amused and impressed at the Logan family's skill.  Sebastian Stan's role is disruptive in the best way, channeling all the new age feel-good gobbledygook from the '90s into Soderbergh's crisp infomercial-ready presentation of NASCAR driver Dayton White's daily routine.  In the most shocking bit of entertainment, Seth MacFarlane's usually grotesque caricature finds an unlikely home in Logan Lucky by upping the obnoxious dial so high that any light fumble in his plans comes as a delight.

Daniel Craig, while also relishing the opportunity to go broad with his performance, keeps Joe Bang rooted in the frustration of his unappreciated intellect.

There's some lower-class manipulation that didn't sit well with me as it initially played out.  This being a heist film, I knew that the payoff would be coming down the line, but the way the Logan family manipulates the labor of their likewise suffering comrades is rough to take in.  How you'll feel about the climactic revelations depends on your moral division between means and ends.  Personally, I find both "the ends justify the means" and "the means justify themselves" both reductive stances, and Soderbergh finds a charming balance between the "little guy" getting one over on American capitalism and making sure the folks they harm get proper recompense along the way.

Logan Lucky's ultimately a healthier and exponentially better constructed lower-class entertainment than the kind The Dukes of Hazzard used to provide.  Even NASCAR, that perennial symbol of American waste, is treated with respect for the entertainment it gives to folks who dare to dream.  It's breezy, and looks to be a practice run for his "real" return to cinema with his iPhone-shot Unsane premiering recently.   But his example is a lesson for other filmmakers, just because the stakes are low and the plot simple doesn't mean that a dose of class-consciousness can't be injected in to make a cinematic snack a surprisingly healthy meal.

Enjoy the piece? Please share this article on your platform of choice using the buttons below, or join the Twitch stream here!

Logan Lucky (2017)

Directed by Steven Soderbergh.
Screenplay written by Rebecca Blunt.
Starring Channing Tatum and Adam Driver.

Posted by Andrew

Comments (0) Trackbacks (0)

No comments yet.

Leave Your Thoughts!

Trackbacks are disabled.