For a review of “Logan Lucky,”
The trailer for “Logan Lucky,” the new film from Steven Soderbergh, his first after his short- lived retirement, announces that it’s fromthe director of “Ocean’s 11, 12, 13,” and “Magic Mike.” None of his many other films are needed to position “Logan Lucky” for audiences. This is Soderbergh at his most fun, working in slick heist caper mode, featuring his muse of the moment, Channing Tatum.
Since Tatum’s physical talents are the inspiration for “Magic Mike,” it’s ironic that Soderbergh has saddled his character, Jimmy Logan, with a bum knee, an injury that killed his NFL dreams and continues to impede his job prospects. Tatum lumbers and limps around “Logan Lucky,” portraying a charming lunkhead type, and using his comedic talent to power this light- hearted crime comedy.
Jimmy’s brother, Clyde ( Adam Driver), is also physically impaired, saddled with a prosthetic hand. He’s an Iraq vet, and incongruously works as a bartender, though he mixes a mean one- handed martini. Their setbacks in life make their sister Mellie ( Riley Keough) wonder about a “Logan curse,” but they pay that no mind. These two determined brothers may not seem like the sharpest tools in the shed, but dang if they aren’t dogged in their pursuits. It’s surprising, but Tatum and Driver make a perfect on- screen pair.
At one point, a character makes reference to “Ocean’s 7- 11,” which could have been a perfect pithy tagline for this film. This is a decidedly bluecollar heist film, devoid of Sin City glam, focusing on real, if heightened characters. Casinos? Nah, they’re robbing the biggest show in town — NASCAR. Laid off from his construction job due to liability issues from his knee injury, Jimmy just wants enough money to stay close to his daughter, Sadie ( Farrah Mackenzie), a spunky pageant princess with heart.
They recruit an incarcerated inmate, Joe Bang, a savant of homemade explosives, to bring the firepower to their plan to rob a vault of concessions cash underneath the motor speedway. The trailer cheekily announces, “and introducing Daniel Craig” as Joe, and it’s appropriate; Craig’s unrecognizable, inspired, Southernfried performance is as far from 007 as you can get.
The screenplay is credited to a “Rebecca Blunt,” a writer who doesn’t seem to exist. Some have theorized that Soderbergh’s wife, former E! host and novelist Jules Asner might have written it, or Soderbergh himself. He has never shied away from using a pseudonym. Nevertheless, the story is so clearly Soderberghian, it had to have sprung from his brain or his inner circle.
In his heist films, Soderbergh is preoccupied with systems of places — the Rube Goldberg machines and mathematical equations that make things run. “Logan Lucky” is no different, focused on the careful and clever planning and execution, always with a trick up its sleeve, a shocking reveal of the secret plan inside the plan. The script does get too caught up in the plan, unfortunately losing momentum at the climax.
There are also a few characters around the edges that feel extraneous to the central story— an annoying energy drink pusher played by Seth MacFarlane with a cockney accent; a gravely toned FBI investigator played by Hilary Swank. But for all its issues, “Logan Lucky” is just so warmheartedly enthusiastic, it’s hard not to get swept away with this group of not soaverage Joes.
“Logan Lucky,” a Bleecker Street release, is rated PG- 13 for language and some crude comments. Running time: 119 minutes. ★★★
If you’re feeling nostalgic for a ’ 90s- style buddy action comedy with some early 2000s edge, “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” is the film for you. Recycling vintage character types, tropes and even politics, “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” already feels like you’re half watching it on TNT on a Saturday afternoon.
Directed by “The Expendables 3” director Patrick Hughes, the script by Tom O’Connor could have been written in 2005 and never updated, as a ripoff Tarantino that thinks swearing stands in for wit, with the kind of casual sexism and objectification of women that movies got away with before we all got sick of it.
But this is a film that lives and dies on its stars, and Samuel L. Jackson, as the hitman, and Ryan Reynolds, as the bodyguard, working within their already wellestablished personas, make for a fine pair of unlikely partners, and hit a few wellplaced punchlines with expert delivery. Jackson, in particular, is a treat towatch, whether singing Italian folk songs with nuns, or doling out love advice via speakerphone during a car chase.
The plot concerns testimony that the hitman, Darius Kincaid ( Jackson), is supposed to give against a bloodthirsty Belarussian dictator, Vladislav Dukhovich ( Gary Oldman). In exchange for the release of his feisty wife, Sonia ( Salma Hayek) from a Dutch prison ( it’s never explained why she’s in prison, however), Kincaid promises to offer proof of Dukhovich’s war crimes.
When the Interpol transfer of Kincaid goes south, agent Amelia Roussel ( Elodie Yung) calls up an old boyfriend for backup, an “executive security agent” who’s fallen on hard times, Michael Bryce ( Reynolds). Bryce and Kincaid have a long and thorny history as adversaries, so their 24- hour jaunt from England to Amsterdam proves to be quite eventful. Thanks to Dukhovich’s thugs, who are trying to prevent Kincaid from testifying, it’s also violently action- packed.
It’s unfortunate that “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” hits U. S. theaters this particular weekend — it’s no fault of the distributor, but it’s unlikely audiences will be entertained by the multiple scenes of evil henchmen plowing vehicles through quaint city squares, mowing down innocent bystanders.
The film demonstrates a hypocritical attitude about murder— while Kincaid and Bryce race across town to indict a dictator for murdering civilians, they remorselessly leave a wake of bloody bodies in the streets. They’re bad guys, but the tricky morality doesn’t quite gel.
Moreover, the violence of “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” is thuddingly, exhaustingly dull. It’s not shot in any particularly interesting way, the cinematic geography is mush, and the stunts and action choreography are nothing to write home about. As the film pushes the twohour mark, it just becomes a boring blur.
Speaking of blur — Hughes shoots every scene with open windows providing backlight, creating a gauzy haze throughout the whole film. It makes no sense why every scene looks like the lens has been smeared with Vaseline. It doesn’t even soften the edges of the brutally bad CGI.
The problem with “The Hitman’s Bodyguard,” aside from the dodgy filmmaking craft, is that this story is the least interesting tale to tell about these characters. The flashbacks, to Kincaid’s first kill, and his meet- cute with Sonia, are juicy snippets of stories thatwould have made for a better movie. This film should have traded the hitman’s bodyguard for his wife — she’s the most compelling character in it.
“The Hitman’s Bodyguard,” a Lionsgate release, is rated R for strong violence and language throughout. Running time: 118minutes. ★ ½
Salma Hayek, left, and Samuel L. Jackson star in “The Hitman’s Bodyguard.”