When Steven Soderbergh declared he was retiring from feature filmmaking in 2013, nobody really took him seriously. Technically, he did take a sabbatical from “feature filmmaking” but he stayed very busy. He produced and directed two seasons of the Cinemax drama The Knick, directed the off-Broadway play The Library, helped Spike Jonze edit Her, he executive produced the Starz series The Girlfriend Experience (which was based on his film of the same name), and executive produced the Amazon series Red Oaks, and began working on the HBO series Mosaic. That’s a lot of work for a guy who was retired.
After that short “break”, Soderbergh came back to feature films with Logan Lucky. What better way to come back from retirement than to direct a film in a genre he clearly loves, the heist film? Similar to the Ocean's Eleven series, Logan Lucky is about a a group of friends who band together to rob a seemingly impenetrable vault. But where the Ocean movies (and Out of Sight before it, which also deals with vault robberies) had protagonists that were suave, cool, and collected (and one of them was George Clooney), Logan Lucky’s heroes are rural, agitated, and a bit dim. Call it Redneck Eleven (or Seven as the cast is a bit smaller).
Channing Tatum and Adam Driver star as Jimmy and Clyde Logan. Clyde served in the military but lost an arm in an automobile accident and now runs the local bar. Jimmy just lost his job with a construction company that was fixing sink holes at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. While he was working, he learned about their security procedures and their method of using pneumatic tubes to transfer large quantities of cash into a singular vault. He figures they owe him since his job loss was over "liability reasons involving insurance" (he’s got a limp due to a sports injury that he didn’t report when he first got the job).
These brothers are are not the sharpest tools in the shed, but even they know that in order to do a complicated vault heist you need a team of experts. Not knowing any experts, they grab the people they know and convince them to do the job anyways. First on their list is Joe Bang (Daniel Craig), the only person they know who can crack a safe. Trouble is, he is incarcerated and thus they must break him out of prison (and put him back in when the job is done without anyone being the wiser). They enlist Joe’s dimwitted brothers Sam (Brian Gleeson) and Fish (Jack Quaid) and his sister Mellie (Riley Keough) to help.
As a director, Steven Soderbergh knows a good heist film needs an overly complicated plan in which to steal the cash and he certainly employs one here. Or rather it involves two overly complicated plans as the first one has to get Joe Bang out (and back in) prison. This involves getting Clyde put into the slammer (and then back out - and then back in), and a planned prison riot. The plan to rob the speedway involves cockroaches, handmade explosives involving Gummy Bears, and some precise timing.
Of course, not everything goes to plan, or so we are at first to believe, as a good heist film also involves a flashback to the heist only to reveal various actions taking place we weren’t privy to the first time around.
I’ve loved Steven Soderbergh since Sex, Lies and Videotape. Out of Sight was the first DVD I ever bought. Thing is though I never cared for Ocean's 11. So much so I never bothered with any of the sequels. One would expect I’d therefore not really like Logan’s Lucky, a film clearly influenced by the Ocean films. One would be wrong. I adore this film. Somehow moving the heist from slick Las Vegas to rural North Carolina and changing the characters from the super cool to the super dopey completely does it for me. A lot of reviewers have been turned off by the exaggerated accents and lunk-headedness of the characters, especially Daniel Craig’s performance but I totally dug it. Soderbergh is a master craftsman and he puts the ridiculous plot together really carefully. I’m not even sure it all makes sense, but I don’t care.
There are attempts to ground the characters, to make them a little more sympathetic and a little less cartoonish. This mostly comes from Jimmy’s ex-wife (an underused Katie Holmes) and his precocious daughter (Farrah Mackenzie). These scenes don’t work as well as the others and slow the film down at all the wrong moments. Though they do bring in a lovely scene in which the daughter gets a crowd singing John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads.”
The performances are great all around. Many are a bit over the top (especially Daniel Craig, but Dwight Yoakam as the prison warden is no slouch, either). I never thought I’d say this but Channing Tatum has proven himself to be an effective and dare I say it, subtle actor.
The audio and video presentation on this Blu-ray is darn near flawless. Digitally photographed, the transfer yields no damage or digital noise. It's sharp, well defined, and all around beautiful. The sound is energetic and clear. Unfortunately, this release comes with a bare minimum of extras - only two deleted scenes plus a DVD copy and digital download codes.
Steven Soderbergh never really left, but with Logan Lucky he’s come fully back into making wonderful, glorious feature films. We’re all the more lucky for it.