Logan Lucky (2017)

*. Logan Lucky is one of the least interesting movies I’ve seen in a while.
*. That probably sounds worse than what I mean. Critics often use the word “interesting” as a throwaway when they can’t think of any other faint praise to give to a book or a movie that they didn’t much care for. Being interesting thus becomes a sort of baseline, the bare minimum hurdle that any work of art has to clear just to be worth sticking with till the end. But a movie that’s uninteresting isn’t necessarily a bad movie. I didn’t find Logan Lucky dull. Parts of it are even entertaining. But none of it is interesting.
*. It’s a heist picture by Steven Soderbergh, over which, by some creative maneuvering, he had complete creative control. He used that control to make Ocean’s Fourteen. Except instead of the twenty-first century Rat Pack we have a bunch of white trash losers looking to rob a NASCAR speedway. In other words, what Soderbergh himself called an “anti-glam version of an Ocean‘s movie . . . a version of an Ocean‘s movie that’s up on blocks in your front yard.” Is that more or less interesting than the sexy boys taking down yet another Vegas casino? I’d say about the same, which is to say not very interesting at all.
*. So Hollywood’s slickest director goes rough. That might have been interesting if he’d chosen to film Logan Lucky in a rougher style, but this looks every inch a Soderbergh film. It was amusing to see Daniel Craig playing a redneck, but Joe Bang isn’t an interesting character so the role sort of fizzles when the novelty of the look and accent wears off.
*. The plot proceeds in a formulaic way, with a by-now standard long unwinding in the denouement that manages to give things a bit of a twist. But there are no big surprises. Again, this doesn’t make it dull. You know what to expect in terms of the story’s structure but some of the specific elements are different.
*. Some. Not all. It’s still the good ol’ boys sticking it to the Man. The burglars may be a grab-bag of misfits, but the authorities are incompetent boobs. There’s still a cool soundtrack that kicks in whenever we get a montage without any dialogue. There’s still a happy ending.
*. The line they highlighted in all the ads has Joe Bang complaining about wearing a prison onesie. But does he? The prison uniforms all seem to consist of pants and tops.

*. Channing Tatum and Adam Driver are determinedly understated as the Logan brothers, providing the quiet eye of the cyclone of eccentrics. Hilary Swank has a fun turn as an FBI agent. Daniel Craig’s platinum ‘do steals every scene he’s in but I didn’t buy him for a moment as Joe Bang. What really puzzled me however was the British toff Max Chilblain (Seth MacFarlane). What purpose did he serve? I still can’t figure why they felt they needed him. Anthony Lane thought the film “delights in superfluities,” but I took no delight in Chilblain and I don’t think any part of a film should ever be a superfluity.
*. I guess the nagging question I had concerns Soderbergh’s attitude toward the brothers. Yes, they’re comic figures, only slightly less bizarre than the Bang siblings. But are they being mocked? Is this a movie that is sending up redneck culture, with its kiddie beauty pageants and NASCAR races, or does it view that culture sympathetically? I can’t help feeling that Soderbergh despises these people, and things like the little girl getting the crowd to sing along with “Take Me Home, Country Roads” don’t really change this. This isn’t anything I take personally, but it did leave me with a bad taste in my mouth.
*. So, yeah. A polished entertainment, but uninteresting. Also nearly half an hour too long. You’d think that with creative control Soderbergh might have tried something a bit different aside from just working different distribution channels. But then the financing might have made him even more risk averse. In any event, Logan Lucky only kills the time.

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