Logan Lucky: A Familiar Heist Movie in An Unfamiliar Setting
After a short hiatus, art-film director Steven Soderbergh is back with a brand new feature film, “Logan Lucky”, a captivating and quirky new take on the heist genre. Dubbed as “Ocean’s 7/11,” it follows Jimmy Logan, a divorced West Virginia construction worker, and his war veteran brother Clyde in their plan to rob a NASCAR track. Soderbergh once again combines an all-star cast and a unique story to create another awkward, yet endearing film to add to his record.
The film essentially follows the same formula as Soderbergh’s previous crime/comedy ventures like his “Ocean’s” trilogy. Namely:
- Form a team, all with their different quirks and character traits
“Logan Lucky” centers around Jimmy Logan, a former superstar high school athlete, and his siblings. His family is plagued by the semi-titular “Logan Curse,” which is said to have been responsible for Jimmy’s limp leg, Clyde’s lost arm and a host of other incidents. Throughout the movie, Jimmy grapples with making time for his daughter, for whom he has partial custody. This relationship is why Jimmy decides to go forward with the plan in the first place. Clyde is a level-headed bartender and Iraq War veteran who is the soft-spoken and loyal. Joe Bang is a crazed, brilliant criminal who is explosive in character and in action. Joe’s brothers Fish and Sam are archetypical, comedic caricatures of dumb Southerners that do the “dirty work.”
NOTE: As far as the actors playing the parts, many were shocked with the casting containing unlikely Hollywood staples without previous “country” roles. But with Adam Driver being an actual Iraq War veteran and Channing Tatum spending the first part of his life in the South, the two make a quite fitting pair to play the roles. Daniel Craig, coming off his fourth movie as James Bond, also surprisingly slides into his role very suitably as a Duke Nukem-esque convict and demolitions expert.
- Reveal the master plan as it is being executed
A slow, detailed montage is how “Logan Lucky” decided to create fluid transition from plan to action. Not to give too much away, but it involves a birthday cake, a prison riot and the frisking of an elderly woman. The subtlety of the cinematography makes this step seem effortless. The brilliance of this act is the suspense and intrigue that comes along with each new incident. The film does a great job of keeping the motive behind a certain action a secret until it wants the audience to know. Each scene seems to continue for an extended amount of time, but there is a reason for it all. No detail goes unchecked and no shot is wasted.
- Toss in a couple unforeseen obstacles
Before any planning takes place, in Jimmy’s house there is a piece of paper that contains “Ten Steps To A Successful Heist.” Two spots on that list were reserved for “S*** happens” and “S*** happens, part two.” Shortly into the pre-heist activities, this is exactly what happens, and they are forced to go ahead with their plan on the same day as the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR race. As you would imagine, this drastically changes the direction and plotline of the film. These are extremely important tool in the writing of this movie because without a constant threat of conflict, the film is no longer engaging or satisfying. If nothing ever went wrong, how could we ever imagine Daniel Craig explaining to a pair of befuddled West Virginians the chemistry of gummy bear bombs.
- Make it appear the plan failed
Just as in Ocean’s Eleven, “Logan Lucky” throws the audience a curveball when it seems as though the heist was all for nothing. As an audience, you begin thinking “why this would happen?” and “where do the writers intend this to go from here?” Suddenly, snippets of previous scenes with a wider context begin being played and it all makes sense. The trick to making an unforgettable heist movie is centered around the most minor of details. If you are always a step ahead of the audience, you are doing things right. If you are two steps ahead, you are excelling.
Logan Lucky expanded on this premise by showing not only the hidden steps to success, but the ways the culprits repaid those who helped them along the way. Characters that audience thought nothing of or had forgotten were revisited and the jagged, scrambled pieces of the puzzle began to fall into place.
- Leave the fate of the characters as a relative mystery
“Logan Lucky” ends by giving the audience subtle and obvious hints into the lives of the characters after the heist. After a fast-paced second act, the film screeches to a halt with the half-hearted introduction of Hilary Swank as an FBI agent. While it seems each person is well-off and in a happy place, we are not treated to much useful dialogue after the reveal sequence. Soderbergh is careful to be discreet and careful about giving too much information and even seems to set up a sequel. The one thing we are certain of is that we do know that Jimmy ends up where he wants to be: with his daughter.
Overall, “Logan Lucky” is a roller-coaster of a film that melds together an often neglected genre with a historically neglected Appalachian setting. It is a working-man’s heist movie that seems at times to parody the sophistication and elitism of past films of the same genre. There are moments that will make you laugh, moments that will make you cringe and moments of pure gratification. This movie is recommended to those who value non-blockbusters and who appreciate the enigmatic and gifted mind of Steven Soderbergh.