LOGAN LUCKY (2017, Steven Soderbergh)
It’s all about the details. Not that Soderbergh was lacking in that department 25-30 years ago, but as a seasoned veteran, he’s learned that what sets his craft apart from greener directors is his attention to the very small things that make all the difference. In this caper-comedy, which he clearly modeled after his big box office success (a TV newswoman in the film calls the heist “Ocean’s 7-11”), the entertainment comes from what we see and when. In one shot, Riley Keough is putting nail polish on cockroaches — which makes no sense, until it does a few minutes later. The same goes for the credit card machines, the smoking janitor, the fake salt, and a dozen more specifics.
Big credit to Soderbergh’s wife Jules Asner (writing under the pseudonym Rebecca Blunt) for a sharp script that never condescends to the redneck culture it inhabits. Adam Driver and Channing Tatum revel in their Southern accents and hillbilly wardrobes, but their intelligence is clear, and Soderbergh shows some adoration of the NASCAR culture by casting big-name drivers in cameo roles as security guards. He even lingers on LeeAnn Rimes’s moving rendition of “America, The Beautiful.”
Speaking of that, Soderbergh has picked up right where he left off in terms of subject matter — he’s all about the economy. THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE, MAGIC MIKE, and SIDE EFFECTS all came down to money, and his exploration of the American working class has been a pleasure to see. In this chapter, the security code is 12-25 (Christmas), the robbers are Robin Hoods, and there’s even a nod at universal health care with Katherine Waterston’s nurse character. But Soderbergh doesn’t preach, and he knows the engine driving this is the comedy and the cast — Daniel Craig is by far the standout, not just because his line deliveries are uproarious (“I’m bout to git… NEKKID!”) but also in stark contrast to the brooding and serious James Bond we’re so used to. Hilary Swank is also hilarious as an overly tough FBI agent; her speech patterns alone made me laugh out loud. But top to bottom, Soderbergh gets the most out of big and small roles. This is the funniest movie of 2017, and a comeback so strong it makes me want both another season of THE KNICK and two more features right away.