That’s an actual joke in the movie, that the heist at the center of the film is “Ocean’s 7-11”. And it’s appropriate, because Logan Lucky, a perfectly delightful heist flick from one of the best crafters of heist flicks, is a beat-for-beat remake of 2001’s Ocean’s 11 remake. It makes sense, as both movies come from Steven Soderbergh, who is returning to feature film after “retiring” (read: working on TV for several years). On the one hand, Soderbergh is blatantly plagiarizing his own work as Logan Lucky really is just Ocean’s 11 only with rednecks, but on the other hand, Logan Lucky is super fun and has lots of the kind of easy, entertaining character interactions that make Soderbergh’s movies so good. Does it make the movie less good if it’s just a remake of a remake, when it’s so goddam enjoyable in its own right?
Logan Lucky is a patented Soderbergh project, with Soderbergh directing, editing, and working as his own cinematographer. It has that signature Soderbergh look, with lots of clean shot compositions, people walking into focus, and the double-back crime exposition that reveals what really happened while you were watching only part of the story. There are also a few subplots that probably don’t need to exist, chiefly a romantic subplot and an unnecessary extra motivation for the heist, but Soderbergh is so good with actors that those scenes get by on charm, even if they are off-pace with the rest of the film.
But we do need to talk about who wrote Logan Lucky. The credit is “Rebecca Blunt”, who does not seem to exist. The leading theory is that “Rebecca Blunt” is either Soderbergh himself, or his wife, Jules Asner. If it’s an Elena Ferrante situation where Asner just doesn’t want to publicize her writing for whatever reason, fine. But if it is Soderbergh—and given the extreme similarity between Logan Lucky and Ocean’s 11, it probably is—it’s troubling for a man to use a woman’s name in an industry where women are still struggling for equal representation.
Soderbergh started his own distribution company, Fingerprint Releasing, to try a new model of advertising and distributing movies, one that gives filmmakers a more direct pipeline to the market, rather than working with a studio system designed to hijack filmmaker profits. It didn’t really work out, as Logan Lucky tanked, but the “Rebecca Blunt” mystery looks a whole lot like a stunt meant to increase interest in the film. Which means Soderbergh may have used a woman’s name because he knew it would, in this current atmosphere of pushing for more representation, draw attention to his film, thus raising its profile. Which is sort of gross.
Does that kill your interest in the movie? I hope not, because unnecessary hype mystery aside, Logan Lucky is an entertaining two hours. Channing Tatum and Adam Driver are terrific as a pair of maybe-cursed backwoods brothers, and Riley Keough—star of Soderbergh’s TV version of The Girlfriend Experience—is OUTSTANDING as their sharp-witted and lead-footed sister, Mellie. Daniel Craig hasn’t had this much fun on camera since ever, and in a smaller role, Soderbergh makes great use of Dwight Yoakam as a prison warden arguing with his rioting inmates over the status of Game of Thrones.
The only discordant notes are Katie Holmes and Seth MacFarlane. Holmes doesn’t have to do anything except be an irate ex-wife, but even in a small, one-note role, she falls flat. This cast is stacked with terrific actors in every small part, and Holmes just isn’t up to it. (You can’t help but wonder what someone like Mary Elizabeth Winstead would have done with that role.) Likewise, MacFarlane is out of place as a Richard Branson-inspired NASCAR owner. There’s always something smug about MacFarlane on screen, like he’s in on the joke, but Logan Lucky isn’t that kind of wink-y movie. He sticks out like a sore thumb, and his entire subplot could be cut. It would cost us Sebastian Stan in a small role as a NASCAR driver, but as much as it is always nice to see Stan outside of Marvel, he just isn’t necessary.
But these are small complaints in a movie that is otherwise tightly paced. And it speaks to Soderbergh’s capability that even when he does wander away from the point, it’s only to give us textured, interesting character interactions that add delightful grace notes to the main story. Which is, true, just Ocean’s 11 but with ex-coal miners. (Someone call Christ Pratt and make sure he’s aware of this movie.) Logan Lucky is a fun heist flick with a satisfyingly smart twist, too, full of great performances and deadpan humor and it will eventually find an audience, even if it’s not a box office smash. Movies this fun and well-made always do.
Here's Channing Tatum promoting Logan Lucky in the Netherlands on the weekend and Adam Driver on Late Night with Seth Meyers last week.