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Siraj Syed


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Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for FilmFestivals.com and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics.
Festival Correspondent, Film-critic, Feature-writer.


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Logan Lucky, Review by Siraj Syed: How to steal millions, with a prosthetic arm and a limp leg

Logan Lucky, Review by Siraj Syed: How to steal millions, with a prosthetic arm and a limp leg

After Christopher Nolan wowed audiences with Dunkirk, his friend Steven Soderbergh crafts a never-never heist, with no weapons and unbelievable tools, master-minded by a limping, laid off construction worker, and his one-armed bartender brother. Logan Lucky, not to be confused with the world of werewolves, is a delightfully detailed film that bears many of Soderbergh’s trade-mark touches, and adds a few more. Whatever his equation with Hollywood, Soderbergh’s proposed plans or retirement are premature, to say the least. Any director who can gather an ensemble cast and work with a ‘To Do’ List, like the Logans do in the movie, must remain in the race for many more laps, after 2017.

Trying to reverse a family curse, brothers Jimmy (Channing Tatum) and Clyde Logan (Adam Driver), who were small-time ‘criminals’ in their schooldays, set out to execute an elaborate robbery during the legendary Coca-Cola 600 race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Jimmy Logan, a blue collar labourer whose once promising football career was ruined by an injury, is laid off from his construction job at the Charlotte Motor Speedway due to liability issues related to the said leg, which causes him to limp.

Angry, Jimmy goes to a bar run by his brother Clyde, an Iraq War veteran, who has lost part of his left arm due to an explosion that occurred while he was on the way to catch a flight back home. Now, Clyde wears a prosthetic hand. Clyde agrees to the plan, and he and Jimmy recruit Joe Bang, a convicted safe-cracker who is in jail. Joe insists on involving his dim-witted brothers Sam and Fish, and the Logan’s bring in their own sister Mellie.

While gathering supplies, Jimmy meets former schoolmate Sylvia (Katherine Waterston), who now runs a free mobile clinic, in desperate need of donations. She treats him for a wound and Jimmy develops warm feelings for her. The job is a success, and Jimmy makes it to his daughter's school pageant, just as she performs a rendition of his favourite song, ‘Country Roads Take Me Home’. FBI Special Agent Sarah Grayson (Hillary Swank) is assigned to investigate the heist, but is unable to make any headway in six months, since all the suspects have perfect alibis.

Speculation is rife about the identity of the film’s original screenplay writer, credited as Rebecca Blunt. Soderbergh has said that “She is a real woman with a journalism background, who is from West Virginia, and a friend of my wife. Charlotte Motor Speedway really did have sink-holes that required miners to patch up. That sparked her imagination about what’s under there.” Other sources identify her as Soderbergh’s wife, even suggesting that it is a pseudonym of Soderbergh himself. In Magic Mike XXL, Soderbergh used the name Peter Andrews, for his work as cinematographer and called himself Mary Ann Bernard, for his work as film editor. He has done that again here. We will go with Peter Andrews and Mary Ann Bernard, and the two may take a bow for some polished execution.

Identity crisis apart, encomiums are due for such perspicacious and minute writing, and a remarkable twist in the end. Almost all the parts are shades of grey, two physically handicapped gang-leaders, a safe-cracker who uses some of the most innocuous everyday material to forge an explosive, some jail-birds who are in on the plans as collaborators, a pair of dumbkoffs that bring up moral issues about justifying such a heist, and a British brand-promoter who wants a highly health conscious reluctant ace driver to drink and endorse his clients brand

The jail-break and many of the following developments are not unlike tropes we have seen before, even in Hindi movies. Even as the denouement ends, you see a lady at the bar, back to camera, and the camera them pans, to reveal her identity and sow the seeds of a possible sequel. Yet, they do not give you a feeling of déjà vu.The sequel was always on, if the film did well at box-office, as it has.

Steven Soderbergh (born 1963, Georgia; Sex Lies and Videotape, Ocean's series, Erin Brockovich) is a modern-day master of the understated and held-back chuckles. He loves staying on characters’ faces before they are told to mouth their next lines. These are usually blank, or poker-faced moments, or followed by a rush of furtive action. Try the bar-fight and then the hurling of the Molotov cocktail for size. Logan Lucky has many characters, and most of them are united in the end, a film-writing theory he subscribes to. Enjoy the banter about latest car models and one-upmanship. Getting all the inmates of a prison to play along in the Logan plan, and having a Warden in denial of a prison riot, stretched things a bit.

Channing Tatum, (Magic Mike, Hail, Caesar!, The Hateful Eight) in his fourth project helmed by Soderbergh, surprises you with his cool wit and high IQ. Looking like an unlikely brother, Adam Driver (Silence, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Paterson) has less common looks, compounded by the aesthetically deployed artificial arm. Daniel Craig (three James Bond films, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) is on the wrong side of the law and gets a chance to exhibit talent that goes beyond 007. Looking more rough than suave, he surprises you with his eagerness to make the plan work, even if it means throwing up and landing in an infirmary.

Hilary Swank (Boy’s Don’t Cry, You’re Not You, The Homesman) is as crisp as Kentucky chicken, and determined to nab the killers even after the case has been officially closed. Riley Keough (Magic Mike, The Good Doctor, Mad Max: Fury Road) as Mellie is the brazen bones of the outfit, feisty and a terror behind the wheels. Katie Holmes (The Ice Storm, Batman Begins, Pieces of April) as Jimmy’s estranged wife Bobby Jo Chapman makes her presence felt, albeit in a minor role. Dwight Yoakam (acclaimed country music icon) is the butt of a long-running joke and a clap-trap catch phrase. Nevertheless, more acting assignments could be on the way.

Seth MacFarlane (Ted, A Million Ways to Die in the West) has to live with a name like Max Chilblain, and he hams his British accent all the way, from the bar to the race track, where he pressurises Sebastian Stan (health conscious race driver Dayton White) to drink his brand as an endorsement, with disastrous results. Brian Gleeson as Sam Bang and Jack Quaid as Fish Bang are the ‘no bang for the buck’ siblings who very nearly take the plan to disaster. Their fixation with the ‘morality’ of the crime they willingly become part of is hilarious.

In a fun bit of trivia, six NASCAR stars pop up in non-driver cameo roles in the film.

Get ready for cockroaches in a cake, millions of dollar bills in garbage bags, bleach, gummy bears, and a dietary salt substitute as an explosive device, treasure under a tree, a vacuum cleaner that sucks out currency notes from a vault, and a whole lot more. At 54, Steven Soderbergh is not done yet. These 118 minutes testify to that effect.

Rating: *** ½

Trailer: https://youtu.be/aPzvKH8AVf0

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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of FilmFestivals.com and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.


Bandra West, Mumbai

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