Friday, August 18, 2017

Logan Lucky Review

The middle of August is an interesting time for movies. The big summer movie season is behind us, it's a bit early for Oscar season, school is about to start up for many and, well, people just don't go to the movies that much. Thus studios typically don't drop their big releases in this month, especially not when it comes to mid- to late-August. I mean, Hollywood has realizes with the likes of "Guardians of the Galaxy" and "Suicide Squad" that the first weekend of August can be a great one, thus allowing you to have a monopoly on the rest of the month because no one is going to care to challenge you. "The Dark Tower" tried that this year, but they failed to interest anyone, so now we are just left with an empty month with a lot of low-budget films that could be good or the could be outright disasters. So I'm usually paying extra close attention to reviews to prioritize which movies to see first and which movies can wait for much later. And this is why I found myself in theaters for "Logan Lucky" this weekend because here we have a heist film from director Steven Soderbergh, the director of the "Ocean's" movies that is sitting pretty at 93 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Any movie with a Rotten Tomatoes score in the 90 percent range will certainly get my attention.

As far as the "Ocean's" movies go, I have to be honest and say I'm not as up-to-date with them. I really enjoy myself a good heist movie, but I fell asleep during "Ocean's Eleven" when I first watched it and haven't watched it too many times since. I did enjoy it, though, but it definitely garners a re-watch. And I never did see "Ocean's Twelve" or "Ocean's Thirteen." Although I hear "Ocean's Twelve" is a disappointment while "Ocean's Thirteen" brings it back to form. I've also not seen the original "Ocean's 11" in 1960 with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. Perhaps I'll catch up on those before next year's female reboot, "Ocean's Eight." But despite me not being up-to-date with perhaps the most popular heist series, again I do love myself a good heist movie, such as "The Italian Job," "Fast Five" and "Ant-Man," to name a few off the top of my head. This year we even had "Going in Style" and "Baby Driver" that I enjoyed. They are a lot of fun. When I saw that Soderbergh was back out of "retirement" with a new heist film, I was really hoping that it would be a lot of fun, although the mid-August release date had me a bit nervous. But the great reviews gave me confidence and excitement and I prepared myself for a good time with a heist at a NASCAR race.

Right off the bat I will say that if you go into this movie expecting an epic masterpiece, you might be a bit let down. This is not on the level of the greatest heist movies, thus the 93 percent on Rotten Tomatoes might be a bit deceiving. Although it should be noted that Rotten Tomatoes is simply the percentage of critics that gave the movie a good review. A movie that gets in the 80-100 percent range simple means a lot of people liked it. Rotten Tomatoes doesn't differentiate between decent movie and masterpiece. It's all black and white. Positive and negative. That's why you have to do a bit of reading in between the lines to see what people are saying instead of just looking at a score. I think the overall consensus is that a lot of people had a fun time with this movie. And I'm one of them. If I were a certified Rotten Tomatoes critic, I would be part of the 93 percent that gave this a pass. I don't think Soderbergh really took himself too seriously with this film, which is a good thing here. This is not a serious, intense drama. This is essentially a comedy heist. A hillbilly, redneck parody of Soderbergh's "Ocean's" films. If you go in expecting a masterpiece, you might be disappointed. But if you go in just expecting to have a good time, I think you will.

If I'm getting super nit-picky with the premise here, the motivations behind the heist wasn't perfectly clear to me. A heist film typically dives into anti-hero territory and I love it most when there's good, solid reasoning behind doing a heist. You have to look at your main characters and believe that they'd be the type of people that would be willing to pull something like this off, yet they have to have enough charisma for you to cheer for them to be successful despite this being a very illegal thing that you wouldn't root to succeed if this were real life. That's why "Fast Five" worked really well. Vin Diesel and crew are very likable characters who spend most of that series running from the law or doing things, like street racing, that aren't exactly legal. A major heist, stealing a giant bank vault, made sense for them and it was a ton of fun. Channing Tatum is our main character in "Logan Lucky" and he plays your very typical, likable redneck, southern dude. He loses his job over liability issues and then goes to his brother, played by Adam Driver, and says that they should go rob the NASCAR race track during a huge race. That kinda felt out of left field and not what those two characters would do. So the movie didn't quite have the best setup in the world.

Motivations aside, though, this movie is quite the fun romp. If you live in the deep south or simply enjoy that type of culture, this is going to be your movie. I lived in Texas for two years and while that's not quite the deep south, I did get a taste of the southern culture, especially when I was in the small, redneck towns, so I really appreciated this redneck parody. I thought it was a lot of fun. If you are more cultured into the deep south than I am, then you're going to like this even more. They get the southern culture down pretty well. And, you know, what better than two hillbilly brothers pulling off a heist at a NASCAR race? It's absolutely hilarious. Even if you're not associated with southern culture, I still think there's potential to have a great time here due to the uniqueness of the setup. Along with that, I think all the cast members had a fun time with this, especially Channing Tatum, Adam Driver and Daniel Craig. Everyone in the movie has a thick, southern accent, which works for some more than others, and they all have great chemistry as a team of crazy dudes doing this crazy heist, even if it seems they're a bit in over their heads. With the cast having fun and the director not taking things seriously, it's easy to just sit back and have fun with them.

The biggest challenge for any heist movie is to make sure the pacing of the film is done right. Your typical formula for a heist movie is the introduction of the characters followed by some inciting incident where a decision is made to perform a heist. Then you spend a lot of time in the planning / recruiting / preparation phase before finally getting the payoff of the heist itself, which is typically concluded with post-heist sequences where we see if they get away with this heist. Thus you spend a lot of time in these movies setting things up, which has the potential of getting boring if not done right. If the heist and post-heist sequences aren't intense enough, then we don't get the proper payoff after waiting so long to see this go down. If I'm being honest here, "Logan Lucky" didn't quite nail this pacing. As I mentioned earlier, I think the setup of the heist came out of left field. I don't think it quite made sense. Then there were a lot of moments during the planning phases that were a bit too slow. Watching it late at night, I was having a bit of a rough time staying awake. Then I don't think the payoff was as quite as good as I wanted it to be. Now, none of these elements were straight-up bad, but each step was off by just a bit to throw off the groove of the movie. Things could've been tightened up.

That aside, though, I do think this is an entertaining movie. If you've already got yourself caught up with the summer's big blockbusters and you're just dying for something to come out to so you can get your fix of movie watching, I think "Logan Lucky" is a solid option. If you're not one that heads out to theaters often, I don't think this is necessarily a movie where you need to rush out and see it as soon as possible. Feel free to wait for Netflix, Redbox or whatever means you use to watch movies on your own at home. It will be a well-spent two hours of your life if you have nothing else going on. You can definitely tell that the cast of the movie had a lot of fun during the filming process and that Steven Soderbergh simply wanted to make a casual, lighthearted film for his coming out of retirement party. If you go into the movie without any super high expectations and simply plan to relax, throw some popcorn in your face and have a good time with a hillbilly parody of "Ocean's Eleven," I think you're going to have a great time with this movie. I personally may need to do a re-watch at some point, maybe during my "Ocean's" marathon, due to me dosing off a bit during some of the slower parts. But I did enjoy my experience and thus for now I'm going to give "Logan Lucky" an 8/10.

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