Skip to main content

You sucked my arm off!

Logan Lucky
(2017)

(SPOILERS) I suppose it’s quite sweet that love and devotion dictated Steven Soderbergh’s return to big screen moviemaking, if reports of the true identity of Logan Lucky’s screenwriter are accurate (his wife, Jules Asner, under the pseudonym Rebecca Blunt). I’d say I can’t see any other good reason for having made it, but I’d say that of most Soderbergh fare (including ones shot on an iPhone or with a handycam or even an instant polaroid).

Logan Lucky’s a heist picture, hence Soderbergh self-referencing the gang as “Ocean’s Seven-Eleven”, but it’s a heist that never really takes off, that you never really care about, despite his employing the usual sleight of hand and a jaunty David Holmes score accompanying the action. Ocean’s Idiots might have been a better moniker, given most of brothers Jimmy (Channing Tatum) and Clyde Logan’s (Adam Driver) accomplices are dim-watt bulbs. And they too, we are led to believe, aren’t so bright either. This, however, certainly in Tatum’s case (and it isn’t hard to believe Tatum is dim-watt), is a conceit, as revealed in de rigueur flashback showing how he got away with a robbing a tidy sum from the Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Nevertheless, much of the movie is predicated on how dumb the residents of North Carolina are, how dumb their accents are and how slow their mental processes are. You really need affection for yokel locals to make this kind of thing work, and even if casting likeable Tatum and Driver gives you a head start, Logan Lucky – a terrible backwards title, that did as much to put me off seeing it as Soderbergh’s presumed arbitrary selection process for material – has a director for whom affection for subject matter as never been in plentiful supply. Even as Soderbergh – apparently – wants you to sympathise with his heroes, he’s mocking Jimmy and his family for allowing their daughter to enter one of those grotesque child beauty pageants (because inbred fools like that kind of thing, as opposed to Hollywood paedophiles).

Without investment in the characters, it’s difficult to care much about the heist, which in any case has to work, reveal-wise, by concealing significant parts of it. We already know Jimmy can’t be that dumb anyway, since his plan to spring Joe Bang (a bleached-blonde Daniel Craig having a wild time) and then reincarcerate him is a pretty good one (if pretty unlikely – it would only work in a movie operating in a Danny Ocean reality). It’s a sure sign of how unrefined the material is that Hilary Swank and Macon Blair are wheeled on in the last twenty minutes to provide an investigation into the heist, and thus a vindication for Jimmy’s genius. Structurally, it makes the picture look like a prize booby.

I did like that one of the demands made by the rioting inmates was George RR Martin completing The Winds of Winter. And Dwight Yoakam makes an impression as the prison warden; elsewhere, luminaries wishing to work with the great Berg who is not Steven are short changed; besides Swank and Blair, that includes Sebastian Stan, Katherine Waterston, Katie Holmes, Riley Keough and acting dynasty guys Brian Gleeson and Jack Quaid. Also appearing, in a horribly unfunny role, probably because he’s horribly unfunny, is Seth McFarlane, sporting a horrible Cockney accent. He’s treading in the not-so-proud footsteps of previous Soderbergh veteran Don Cheadle there (either Soderbergh has a tin ear, or he really likes crap British accents).

Logan Lucky didn’t do the kind of business its director hoped for, particularly since he self-distributed. Still, he had a deal with Amazon Prime even before it hit cinemas. Now, of course, he has set up shop at Netflix. He’s attained the level where just having him work for you derives status, regardless of content.


Agree? Disagree? Mildly or vehemently? Let me know in the comments below.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

You're not only wrong. You're wrong at the top of your voice.

Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)
I’ve seen comments suggesting that John Sturges’ thriller hasn’t aged well, which I find rather mystifying. Sure, some of the characterisations border on the cardboard, but the director imbues the story with a taut, economical backbone. 

She was addicted to Tums for a while.

Marriage Story (2019)
(SPOILERS) I don’t tend to fall heavily for Noah Baumbach fare. He’s undoubtedly a distinctive voice – even if his collaborations with Wes Anderson are the least of that director’s efforts – but his devotion to an exclusive, rarefied New York bubble becomes ever more off-putting with each new project. And ever more identifiable as being a lesser chronicler of the city’s privileged quirks than his now disinherited forbear Woody Allen, who at his peak mastered a balancing act between the insightful, hilarious and self-effacing. Marriage Story finds Baumbach going yet again where Woody went before, this time brushing up against the director’s Ingmar Bergman fixation.

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

My name is Dr. King Schultz, this is my valet, Django, and these are our horses, Fritz, and Tony.

Django Unchained (2012)
(MINOR SPOILERS) Since the painful misstep of Grindhouse/Death Proof, Quentin Tarantino has regained the higher ground like never before. Pulp Fiction, his previous commercial and critical peak, has been at very least equalled by the back-to-back hits of Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained. Having been underwhelmed by his post Pulp Fiction efforts (albeit, I admired his technical advances as a director in Kill Bill), I was pleasantly surprised by Inglourious Basterds. It was no work of genius (so not Pulp Fiction) by any means, but there was a gleeful irreverence in its treatment of history and even to the nominal heroic status of its titular protagonists. Tonally, it was a good fit for the director’s “cool” aesthetic. As a purveyor of postmodern pastiche, where the surface level is the subtext, in some ways he was operating at his zenith. Django Unchained is a retreat from that position, the director caught in the tug between his all-important aesthetic pr…

You must find the keys for me!

Doctor Who The Keys of Marinus
Most of the criticisms levelled at The Keys of Marinus over the past 50 years have been fair play, and yet it’s a story I return to as one of the more effortlessly watchable of the Hartnell era. Consequently, the one complaint I can’t really countenance is that it’s boring. While many a foray during this fledgling period drags its heels, even ones of undeniable quality in other areas, Marinus’ shifting soils and weekly adventures-in-miniature sustain interest, however inelegant the actual construction of those narratives may be. The quest premise also makes it a winner; it’s a format I have little resistance to, even when manifested, as here, in an often overtly budget-stricken manner.

Doctor Who has dabbled with the search structure elsewhere, most notably across The Key to Time season, and ultimately Marinus’ mission is even more of a MacGuffin than in that sextology, a means to string together what would otherwise be vignettes to little overall coherence…

Poor Easy Breezy.

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (2019)
(SPOILERS) My initial reaction to Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood was mild disbelief that Tarantino managed to hoodwink studios into coming begging to make it, so wilfully perverse is it in disregarding any standard expectations of narrative or plotting. Then I remembered that studios, or studios that aren’t Disney, are desperate for product, and more especially, product that might guarantee them a hit. Quentin’s latest appears to be that, but whether it’s a sufficient one to justify the expense of his absurd vanity project remains to be seen.

You ever heard the saying, “Don’t rob the bank across from the diner that has the best donuts in three counties”?

2 Guns (2013)
(SPOILERS) Denzel Washington is such a reliable performer, that it can get a bit boring. You end up knowing every gesture or inflection in advance, whether he’s playing a good guy or a bad guy. And his films are generally at least half decent, so you end up seeing them. Even in Flight (or perhaps especially in Flight; just watch him chugging down that vodka) where he’s giving it his Oscar-nominatable best, he seems too familiar. I think it may be because he’s an actor who is more effective the less he does. In 2 Guns he’s not doing less, but sometimes it seems like it. That’s because the last person I’d ever expect blows him off the screen; Mark Wahlberg.

So you made contact with the French operative?

Atomic Blonde (2017)
(SPOILERS) Well, I can certainly see why Focus Features opted to change the title from The Coldest City (the name of the graphic novel from which this is adapted). The Coldest City evokes a noirish, dour, subdued tone, a movie of slow-burn intrigue in the vein of John Le Carré. Atomic Blonde, to paraphrase its introductory text, is not that movie. As such, there’s something of a mismatch here, of the kind of Cold War tale it has its roots in and the furious, pop-soaked action spectacle director David Leitch is intent on turning it into. In the main, his choices succeed, but the result isn’t quite the clean getaway of his earlier (co-directed) John Wick.

I take Quaaludes 10-15 times a day for my "back pain", Adderall to stay focused, Xanax to take the edge off, part to mellow me out, cocaine to wake me back up again, and morphine... Well, because it's awesome.

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Along with Pain & Gain and The Great Gatsby, The Wolf of Wall Street might be viewed as the completion of a loose 2013 trilogy on the subject of success and excess; the American Dream gone awry. It’s the superior picture to its fellows, by turns enthralling, absurd, outrageous and hilarious. This is the fieriest, most deliriously vibrant picture from the director since the millennium turned. Nevertheless, stood in the company of Goodfellas, the Martin Scorsese film from which The Wolf of Wall Street consciously takes many of its cues, it is found wanting.

I was vaguely familiar with the title, not because I knew much about Jordan Belfort but because the script had been in development for such a long time (Ridley Scott was attached at one time). So part of the pleasure of the film is discovering how widely the story diverges from the Wall Street template. “The Wolf of Wall Street” suggests one who towers over the city like a behemoth, rather than a guy …

It always seems a bit abstract, doesn’t it? Other people dying.

Game of Thrones Season Six
(SPOILERS) The most distracting thing about Season Six of Game of Thrones (and I’ve begun writing this at the end of the seventh episode, The Broken Man) is how breakneck its pace is, and how worryingly – only relatively, mind – upbeat it’s become. Suddenly, characters are meeting and joining forces, not necessarily mired in pits of despair but actually moving towards positive, attainable goals, even if those goals are ultimately doomed (depending on the party concerned). It feels, in a sense, that liberated from George R R Martin’s text, producers are going full-throttle, and you half-wonder if they’re using up too much plot and revelation too quickly, and will run out before the next two seasons are up. Then, I’m naturally wary of these things, well remembering how Babylon 5 suffered from packing all its goods into Season Four and was then given an ultimately wasted final season reprieve.

I’ve started this paragraph at the end of the eighth episode, No One (t…