Soderbergh Returns to the Director Chair and to his Favorite Genre: Heist Films.

Director: Steven Soderbergh/2017

Following 2013’s Side Effects and Behind the Candelabra, director Steven Soderbergh decided to stop directing films.  Four years later, Soderbergh is back and he is directing a film that he has stated is the type of film he wants to make.  Interestingly enough, he wants to make heist films. Known for the sleek, ultra-cool remake of Frank Sinatra’s Ocean’s 11, and its two sequels, only now starring George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, and a host of others, Soderbergh’s new heist film is very different than Ocean’s 11, 12, and 13, while still firmly planted on similar ground.

Logan Lucky is the hillbilly heist film as it is referred to in the film.  Channing Tatum stars as Jimmy Logan, a down-on-his-luck coal miner turned construction worker, who is good with cars and who loves John Denver and his daughter.  His brother Clyde (Adam Driver) is a man tending bar in their West Virginia hometown after losing part of his arm while serving in the military.  Clyde waxes poetically behind the bar each night about the Logan curse that has haunted his family through multiple generations.  His missing arm is simply a continuation of said curse, as is Jimmy’s recent firing from a construction job at the racetrack in North Carolina just across state lines.

With its working class ideals, fun and clever twists, and broadly appealing humor, Logan Lucky is a fitting, fun film to close out your summer.

Jimmy is tired of hearing about this curse, being late to his daughter’s pageant performances, and hearing his ex-wife (Katie Holmes) recount his many failures.  He aims to change his luck.  Hatching a plan with Clyde, they visit the prison to recruit their hometown bomb-making bank robber Joe Bang, played hilariously against type by Daniel Craig who dons a West Virginia accent. He is up for parole soon and does not want to jeopardize it, but also wants some cash after loosing his stashed nest egg.  Recruiting his two brother, Fish (Jack Quaid) and Sam (Brian Gleeson), they begin to execute their plan to rob the very raceway where Jimmy was fired, and where Jimmy knows the ins and outs of the place, and most importantly, where they move the cash to on race day.

Along for the ride is Riley Keough playing Jimmy and Clyde’s sister Mellie Logan, as well as some nice appearances by Dwight Yoakam, Sebastian Stan, and Hilary Swank.  This caper has lots of humor that will appeal to an even wider audience of the ultra-cool restrained humor of Oceans 11.  This is meant to be a look at blue-collar working class people fighting for their break in life, but is never preachy in its examination of this contrast of the haves and the have-nots.  West Virginia, which has had its share of struggles economically is a good location for these working class criminals who may have hearts of gold underneath their scheming and law breaking ways.

While Logan Lucky is not a perfect film, it is a very good one, and like the other big-budget action comedy film opening this weekend, The Hitman’s Bodyguard, it ends the summer movie going season on a high note.  As I stated in my review of The Hitman’s Bodyguard, these are both films that should have opened the summer instead of the louder studio blockbusters that crashed and burned.  If both Logan Lucky and The Hitman’s Bodyguard are able to grab an audience, sticking around until Labor Day weekend where they can hopefully catch more people who are off work for the holiday, it has a chance to do some really good business.  Being PG-13, Logan Lucky might have the edge over The Hitman’s Bodyguard, but don’t count out a Ryan Reynolds R-Rated action-comedy film after the success of Deadpool.

Steven Soderbergh appears to be back for good based on the three films he has already on his schedule, two of which are already in post-production with the third one announced.  Perhaps the break in directing feature films has rejuvenated his spirit and he will now continue to find scripts that excite him to make films he is passionate about.  I hope so, as his is a voice that enriches cinema. He is a director that, while bringing many box office successes to the theaters, understands the smaller independent stories that he was better known for earlier in his career.  As he transitioned to more mainstream fare like Oceans 11, Traffic, or Erin Brockovich, he still maintained that independent spirit, and that is something that is still felt in Logan Lucky, despite its ultra-polished veneer.

Logan Lucky might just be the break that Jimmy and Clyde have been looking for.  It may also be the vehicle that brings Steven Soderbergh back to the forefront of cinema.  With its working class ideals, fun and clever twists, and broadly appealing humor, Logan Lucky is a fitting, fun film to close out your summer.