Cinema Dispatch: Logan Lucky

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Logan Lucky and all the images you see in this review are owned by Fingerprint Releasing and Bleecker Street

Directed by Steven Soderbergh

Oh hey!  Wasn’t this guy supposed to retire like five years ago?  Last I heard, he was done making movies and Behind the Candelabra was supposed to be his last film!  I guess it’s never easy for someone in this business to TRULY retire (didn’t Jet Li try to do that like fifteen years ago?) and it’s usually a good thing when they don’t.  I mean sure, not EVERYONE manages to make their best films in the latter half of their career, but Soderbergh has been a solid talent for some time now and I think we’re better off with him at least TRYING to stay game than just giving it up all together.  Will his latest effort confirm just how much he was missed for the maybe one year at most he stopped directing stuff, or was his initial instinct to quit at the peak of his career the right call to make?  Let’s find out!!

The movie begins with Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) getting fired from his construction job at the Charlotte Motor Speedway due to a pre-existing injury that the company found out about.  Now if you ask his brother Clyde (Adam Drive), he’ll tell you that this is just yet another example of The Logan Family Curse which he believes to be responsible for an IED blowing off his hand and forearm, and while the guy is clearly the superstitious type, it’s not like he doesn’t have a lot of evidence backing him up.  Jimmy losing his job is just another burden for him to carry on top of his somewhat messy divorce with his wife Bobbie Joe (Katie Holmes), his straining relationship with his daughter Sadie (Farrah Mackenzie), and just the general suckiness of living in North Carolina where the Drinking water is almost always at risk from shoddy chemical plants who just keep spilling their shit into the supply.  Maybe this is all a sign for him to go the Walter White route and make money in a less than ethical way just to get some of the weight off of his shoulders and live just a bit more conformably.  He may not be cooking meth, but he DOES plan to rob the very speedway that he worked for because he knows that the money is transported through a series of tubes that go from the individual (and overpriced) merchants to the big vault down below.  Even with his little inside tip, it STILL seems like a tough job to pull off which means he’ll need a little extra help from demolitions expert and current inmate Joe Bang (Daniel Craig) as well as his rather dumb yet completely loyal brothers Fish and Sam (Jack Quaid and Brian Gleeson); not to mention his brother as well as his sister Mellie (riley Keough) who’s an expert driver and the perfect wheel woman for this job.  Can this ragtag group of misfits manage to pull off the heist to end all heists right under everyone’s noses?  How exactly do they hope to not only get in the vault and steal all that money in the first place, but make sure they don’t get caught after the fact?  Is this where the James Bond movies will end up going?  Hey, it’s at least more coherent than the LAST movie!

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“The name’s Bang. Joe Bang.”     “Wait, so your first name is Bang-Joe?”

This is… a good movie.  That’s all I’ve got.  I wasn’t over the moon about it, but I was also thoroughly entertained all the way through which is kind of par for the course in terms of Soderbergh films.  I certainly need to see more of his films (I’ve got Haywire on blu ray somewhere around here that’s collecting dust) but the ones I have seen fall under the realm of… pretty good.  Ocean’s Eleven was fine with a REALLY solid cast, Traffic was… well I didn’t particularly like that one, but The Informant was a lot of fun!  This movie in particular though MIGHT just be the best among the ones I’ve seen, and while I can point to some flaws that did bug me throughout it, none of them are enough of a burden on the film for me to dislike it in any meaningful way.  It’s just… a really decent movie.

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It’s certainly the best thing Seth MacFarlane’s done for quite some time.

I’m hard pressed to come up with cogent arguments either for or against this movie simply because of how straightforward its strengths are and how mildly its flaws detract from it.  Essentially, the biggest problem with the movie is that it feels a little too shallow to really get me invested in the characters, but makes up for it with a strong sense of style and incredibly well-honed directing chops.  Everyone in the movie is doing a great job with what they’re given, but the characters who are the most interesting to watch tend to be the most cartoonish and with the least at stake while the characters we’re SUPPOSED to care about like Channing Tatum simply don’t engender all that much sympathy for their plight.  Sure, he lost his job and has to deal with his divorce (it also helps that he’s played by Charming Potato), but the movie simply doesn’t give us enough motivation from him to make this plan seem the slightest bit worthwhile.  On the flip side, we’ve got Daniel Craig just acting his ass off as this rich and textured caricature of a human being (he kind of reminds me of a toned down Sharlto Copley from The A-Team) and is fantastic for the parts of the film he’s in.  He reminds me a lot of the role that Captain Jack Sparrow played in the first Pirates movie where his mannerisms and affectations went a long way towards giving the movie a sense of life and excitement without the need for him to be the focus of everything.  At no point do you GENUINELY care about whether or not Joe Bang is gonna get his money because that’s not the role he’s supposed to be playing, but then no one really manages to pick up the slack in terms of investment and sympathy.  It’s like that throughout the film where things are happening and you can SEE how they it all came together, but that extra level of depth that creates a genuine bond between the audience and the characters never really manifests and it takes away a significant amount of the tension in the movie.

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All I’m saying is this movie would be much better if he had wolf ears and gravity boots!

The movie is at its best when it’s focusing on the individual details about its characters and the various stages of the heist; both of which are fascinating up to a point but overly convoluted.  One of the best examples of this is a character played by Katherine Waterston who has a REALLY great scene with Channing Tatum, but then never shows up again in any meaningful way in the movie.  She comes across as if she’ll be a love interest or even an integral part of the plot in some way, but she literally ends up having no purpose by the end of the movie and it’s confusing why they bothered to include her in the first place.  Heck, even the biggest joke of a character in here played by Seth MacFarlane manages to get three REALLY great scenes to run his mouth!  It’s so jarring to Katherine Waterston so underutilized in that that it feels like she was given a much more prominent role in an earlier cut of the film but was then removed almost entirely for whatever reason at the very last minute.

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Miss Not Appearing In This Film

Even when the heist is in full swing, it makes the odd choice of not cluing the audience in on what’s going on at any given stage.  Sure, a lot of heist movies keep the ace up their sleeve a secret until the end, but more often than not the rest of the heist is laid out beforehand so that the audience can be at the same emotional level as the ones trying to pull it off.  Here, we get about a dozen scenes that started with me asking what the hell they were doing and the movie answering it a minute later.  It was always INTERESTING to watch, but that disconnect between me as someone watching the action and those who are participating in it was palpable and I started asking myself questions that REALLY should have at least gotten a passing answer.  There’s a PRETTY huge piece of equipment that they use in the heist that could have been explained with a sentence or two, but they don’t do that and so it’s just THERE; sitting in the middle of some very important scenes like a big mechanical elephant in the room.

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Which is worst? They had to somehow sneak that thing in there or it was already sitting there just BEGGING for someone to use it in a heist?

You know what I think it is?  The flaws that this movie has are almost note for note the same kind of flaws you’d see in a film that’s based on a true story; from the characters that aren’t as deep and compelling as strongly written fictional characters, to the aimlessness of certain plot points, and even to the use of NASCAR in the movie which feels perfunctory as if its only there because it HAS to be.  It’s an interesting decision to say the least considering that it’s NOT in fact based on a true story, and then THAT raises a whole bunch of questions in and of itself about judging a film for reasons outside of what ended up on the screen.  I mean I tend not to tolerate all THAT much in actual BASED ON A TRUE STORY movies (it didn’t do much to save The Glass Castle from my wrath), and yet in THIS context with a movie that’s solid around those rather specific flaws… it kind of adds something to it.  Maybe not something GOOD… but memorable at the very least.

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Are we sure these are actors and not just locals they picked up from the set of Bernie?

Look, maybe I just wasn’t in the proper mood to enjoy a movie like this and that EVERYONE else in the world will find Channing Tatum endearing and charming beyond the fact that it’s him in the role.  If you can get fully invested in the characters and are okay with being led along on the heist instead of feeling like you’re in some way a part of it, I can see this movie being exponentially better for a significant amount of people out there.  For me, it stayed solid all the way through which is more than something like The Hitman’s Bodyguard which was disappointingly mediocre throughout; never sinking too low but without many high points.  This movie does have high points and they show up rather frequently which helps to put a spit shine on some of the minor weaknesses that are ingrained in the film, but I felt that a TRULY great movie could have been made with just a few tweaks here and there.  Hey, if nothing else it’s better than that stupid ass Masterminds movie from last year, and that one actually WAS based on a true story!

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