*** (out of five)
Steven Soderbergh returns from a self-proclaimed retirement from theatrically-released feature filmmaking with what he’s best at (and the modern cinematic master of) – the genial ensemble heist comedy.
Having presumably seen The Italian Job (1969) an awful lot during his formative years, Soderbergh exquisitely nailed the form over and again with Out of Sight, Ocean’s Eleven, Ocean’s Twelve and Ocean’s Thirteen, and the spirit inherent in those films – friendly, upbeat, light, gently funny – infuses The Informant! and Magic Mike as well. In each of these films Soderbergh deploys an exceptionally cast ensemble whose characters are all unique, well-rounded and truely likeable. By the time the credits roll, all you want to do is hang out and drink beer with this scoundrels, scallywags and hustlers.
Logan Lucky is not the precision near-masterpiece that Out of Sight is, nor as tight or funny as the Ocean’s films, but it’s certainly got all the requisite qualities, and by the end, the same effect (which, as you’ll see in this film, applies significantly). It goes down smooth and easy. The heist itself (a racetrack during a motor race) is clever if not breath-taking, the milieu (West Virginia) amusing and pretty if not exotic, and the jokes raise a smile rather than provoke a laugh. But you really see Soderbergh for the characters, and every one here – played by Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Riley Keough and in particular Daniel Craig – delights. (There is also a large further ensemble of recognisable faces such as Katie Holmes, Katherine Waterston, Seth MacFarlane, Jim O’Heir, Dwight Yoakam, Hilary Swank, Macon Blair and Sebastian Stan.)
Craig is a fabulous actor. Going completely against type when your type is Best Bond Ever, he plays a tattooed cracker safe-cracker. His Southern accent may not be vocal-coach pitch-perfect, but nobody’s is (they’re all doing them), and who cares? Unlike with his Bond, Craig’s incredible eyes here pierce you not with their intelligence but their simple self-belief – a fine but impressive distinction.
Have fun! Soderbergh and his actors clearly did. So did I.