Normally I wouldn’t start a review with a line from the very end of a movie. But this line is actually a line of text – a few sentences – from the last screen of the final credits of “Logan Lucky”, which read as follows:
“This is a Work of Fiction. Nobody was Robbed in the Making of this Movie. Except You.”
It’s the only honest and clever moment of director Steven Soderbergh’s disastrous big screen comeback effort.
Channing Tatum stars as Jimmy Logan, a former small town West Virginia football star, whose dreams of playing in the NFL were ended by a knee injury. He’s divorced and has just lost his job. In fact, it seems that everyone in the Logan family is cursed. So, to change that, Jimmy teams-up with his one-handed brother Clyde (Adam Driver), sister Mellie (Riley Keough) and professional criminal Joe Bang (Daniel Craig in a rare non-007 role) to steal all the money from Charlotte Motor Speedway during the annual Coca Cola 600 NASCAR race.
That set-up would make “Logan Lucky” a heist film, a genre Soderbergh (“Ocean’s 11, 12 and 13”) is certainly familiar with. But it also attempts to be farce/comedy, playing off Southern stereotypes of beer-drinking rednecks and “Toddlers and Tiaras” pageants. The lame script brings nothing new or funny to these worn-out cliches.
Actually, there isn’t a single smart element in “Logan Lucky”. Soderbergh’s trademark directing style is on full display: tons of dialogue, with characters separated at a distance when they’re talking to each other, often in dimly-lit settings. And every scene is slow and dragged-out, most with no payoff.
The heist itself is the most appealing part of the movie. But it lacks the style and imagination of the “Ocean’s” films. Just when you think things are going to start to get good, Jimmy, Clyde, Joe and his two redneck brothers start bickering with each other, killing any rhythm. And the big reveal at the end can be seen coming from 100 laps away. If Soderbergh’s idea was to create a “tongue-in-cheek” parody of his own, previous films, he failed miserably.
One positive thing for racing fans: NASCAR participated fully with production. Scenes were shot at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the racing footage is real and drivers Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano all have cameos.
As for the “real” actors, the star-studded cast is completely wasted, from Katherine Waterston as a mobile nurse to Katie Holmes as Jimmy’s ex (Holmes’ Southern accent is a total fail). Sebastian Stan (Bucky in the Marvel Universe) plays a fictitious NASCAR driver, and Seth MacFarlane is a wreck as a wacky corporate sponsor. MacFarlane needs to stick to voicing Stewie and Ted. Then, just when you think the finish line is near, Oscar winner Hilary Swank shows-up as an FBI agent looking to solve the case, unquestionably the most stale character in any movie so far this year.
Apparently the film’s credited screenwriter, Rebecca Blunt, may not be an actual person. A July article in The Hollywood Reporter brought this speculation to light. Sources claim that either Soderbergh himself, his wife Jules Asner, or friend John Henson wrote the script. No one still knows for sure.
Details from the article include the fact that Blunt was never seen by the cast or crew and has only corresponded via e-mail from the U.K. The studio, Bleecker Street, didn’t hold a press junket for the movie or give-out the standard amount of press materials. Soderbergh, who’s had a history with using pseudonyms in his movies (for writing and editing credits), has stated in recent interviews that Blunt is real, but has not presented any proof.
I can understand why no one involved would want to be tagged with penning this script. But, let’s be honest, using the pseudonym, if that is the case, is a coward move. And choosing a female name as a cover-up, in this time when women writers and directors are finally receiving credit and acclaim for their outstanding work, would be inexcusable.
I hope, for everyone’s sake, that Rebecca Blunt is a real person and an actual screenwriter. But, if so, she may want to think about exploring new career options.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “Logan Lucky” gets a D-.
Running Time: 119 min.