Bruce Steele: How happy were you to see the director of Ocean’s 11 back in the heist movie driver’s seat with Logan Lucky?
Edwin Arnaudin: Over the solar-eclipsing moon! With a few notable exceptions (Traffic; The Limey), I think Steven Soderbergh is at his best when pairing his technically-deft filmmaking to frothy entertainment. How about you?
Bruce: It’s a thoroughly entertaining movie, and the working-class West Virginia and Charlotte Motor Speedway settings add a whole new socio-eco-comic layer. As a native Southerner, what did you think of all these rednecks?
Edwin: I’m a-okay with them. Their comically exaggerated twangs — especially Adam Driver’s terrific turn as Clyde Logan — brought to mind other viewers’ issues with the Asheville-filmed Masterminds as cruel excuses of laughing at so-called “white trash.” Neither film bothers me on that level, but there’s a lot more to these characters, who are anything but simple-minded (despite what their neighbors may say).
Bruce: Indeed, it’s a pretty complicated robbery Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) wants to pull off with his brother Clyde and imprisoned explosives expert Joe Bang (Daniel Craig) — lifting cash from a NASCAR track during a big race. Joe’s brothers are cartoonish bumpkins, but I agree that the rest of the characters are sharply drawn, including hairdresser sister Mellie Logan (Elvis’ granddaughter Riley Keough) and, to a lesser extent, Jimmy’s ex Bobby Jo (Katie Holmes) and pageant-loving young daughter Sadie (Farrah Mackenzie). Did you have a favorite?
Edwin: Clyde by far. Driver talks the talk, but from the moment an arrogant British energy drink mogul (Seth MacFarlane) makes fun of the Iraq war veteran’s missing hand and the bartender shows his customer what he can accomplish with only five fingers, there’s a sense Clyde can do anything to which he sets his mind. Also, I love the way he says “cauliflower.” Who’s your top heist artist (or bystander)?
Bruce: I love Craig’s makeover as raunchy, bleach-blond thug savant, in part because I expected to hate it. But he wipes away all trace of James Bond and has a great time. The link between his hard-boiled egg obsession, gummy bears and the heist plot is priceless.
Edwin: Do you feel like there are too many similarities between Logan Lucky and Ocean’s 11? Or even Hell or High Water?
Bruce: No, because I see Logan as chiefly comic — the heist is half plausible, half ridiculous. The movie that came to my mind was Fargo. Logan is not as violent and here the crooks are the heroes, but both movies use elaborate crimes as excuses to poke affectionate fun at a regional American culture. Of course, in Logan, I think the only person who gets hurt is MacFarlane.
Edwin: Physically, at least. Bobbie Jo’s new husband Moody (David Denman, one of several Office alums reporting for duty) takes a few hilarious shots to his manhood courtesy of Mellie. Anyway, it sounds like we’re fans of the writing, characters and performances. Do you feel like Soderbergh’s direction is a good fit for the material?
Bruce: Absolutely. His pacing is steady but not frenetic and he finds creative ways to frame the many multi-character scenes. What stays with me the most is how he playfully thrusts Craig’s various body parts in your face, a perfect visual equivalent to Joe Bang’s uncontainability. What were your favorite touches?
Edwin: Per usual, his camera pans give me goosebumps — especially as they move from one carefully framed point to another within a single shot — as does his quasi-gritty lighting. The combination is downright Kubrickian! There’s also a shot late in the film where Jimmy is driving and offscreen characters are talking about him. That’s a quietly powerful touch Soderbergh has utilized before to great effect and it works again here for me.
Bruce: The movie had a few slack spots for me, but it’s got a lot going on. I don’t want to shortchange the mysterious screenwriter — “Rebecca Blunt” may in fact be Soderbergh's wife, Jules Asner — and star/producer Tatum. He’s done well in serious roles, but comedies with a little heft really bring out his playful side. And he doesn’t even have to strip. I’m giving it an A-minus.
Edwin: Even with Soderbergh behind the camera, a cast I adore and an encouraging trailer, the mid-August release date lowered my expectations a tad. I wasn’t prepared for how funny Logan Lucky would be and as the laughs and filmmaking thrills kept coming, I found myself wondering if I had a new favorite film of the year. As with what was (and may still be) my #1, T2 Trainspotting, a second viewing is in order. But unlike the Danny Boyle sequel, I’m confident giving its competition an A on a single look.
Grade: A-minus. Rated PG-13. Now playing at AMC Classic, Biltmore Grande and Carolina Cinemark
(Photos: Bleecker Street Media)