When writer-director Steven Soderbergh announced his retirement from filmmaking in 2013 to pursue painting, we thought he was gone for good. Soderbergh stated that there were too many obstacles to movie making.
“I’m interested in exploring another art form while I have the time and the ability to do so,” he told The New York Times in 2011. “I’ll be the first person to say if I can’t be any good at it and run out of money I’ll be back making another ‘Ocean’s’ movie.”
If you look at his Ocean’s films, the art of deception is just as critical as is the final, master stroke of the brush. This is not to suggest that Soderbergh deceived his fans from his absence. Rather, his Oscar-winning career has been defined through pictures with many moving pieces, creating a mist of subversion. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words and there is always more going on than meets the eye.
We’re fortunate that he did not run out of money, and that he’s using it to continue his brilliant tradition of subversive heist capers with the ultra-cool Logan Lucky, opening in theaters this Friday.
Here, Soderbergh and Channing Tatum join forces again. No, Tatum won’t be thrusting about the screen or whipping out his pecs. But he does show his dramatic side as Jimmy, a blue-collar construction worker, who has recently had bad luck with a job and ongoing parental and marital issues with his ex-wife, Bobbie Jo (Katie Holmes).
See, the Logans are very unlucky. They are unlucky at work, they are unlucky in relationships, and they are just plum unlucky at life.
Adam Driver plays his brother, the deadpan Clyde, who’s had bad luck physically, a souvenir from Iraq, and he is left to tend bar in a dive. Together, they come up with a plan to rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway. To make the job work, they need the professional help of the close-cropped, pale-blond explosives expert, Joe Bang (played by Daniel Craig with a perfect Southern twang), whose name says it all; and he delivers too. Elvis’s granddaughter, Riley Keough, got to show off her driving skills as the Logan’s sister, Mellie.
Lucky doesn’t have the same glam and glitz as Ocean’s, but it’s not meant to either. First-time writer Rebecca Blunt crafted a tale of comedic intrigue full of family dynamics (Magic Mike), torn relationships and revenge heists (Ocean’s Eleven) using the politics of the South to frame her story. Soderbergh’s deft direction screams “look this way!” as our characters set their plan in motion, and you are drawn completely in.
There was definitely a sense of déjà vu with this film. However, Soderbergh has taken all that he has learned from his convalescence to create a painting full of rich, well-developed characters. We get to know Clyde and what makes his creepy, Ooompa Loompa-vibe work so well. We see why the cheeky Mellie fits right in with her brothers, and Jimmy’s tender side, even with Bobbie Jo on his back, and why Joe Bang has a sweet tooth. Even the venerable Seth MacFarlane and Hillary Swank have their moments of fun. It’s this intentional reflection on the characters and their situations that really make the film tick.
I am by no means mocking Soderbergh. His absence from the silver screen has made my heart grow fonder for the works he has yet to give us. For now, he has a victory on his hands. Help him complete that victory lap, put your foot on the gas pedal and race (safely!) to your local theater to catch it. You’ll have a smile on your lips from the opening frame to the last credit (and, for cryin’ out loud, stay until the very last credit!)
Logan Lucky is rated R and is in theaters now.