For someone who had supposedly retired from the film industry Steven Soderbergh has been pretty busy the last few years. He has produced and directed two series of the Critically acclaimed drama The Knick and has contributed to a number of films as writer, producer and camera man, usually credited under a pseudonym. So, it came as no real surprise to anyone that he was returning to the big screen as the named director of a major release movie. The only eyebrow raising point was that he would be unleashing another caper movie.
The Logan family has been cursed for over ninety years. Bad luck seems to run in the family and the current generation are no different. Jimmy (Channing Tatum) had a prospective career in the NFL cut short by a knee injury. He is separated from his wife and child and to cap it off he has just lost his job in construction at the local speedway track. The loss is the last straw for him and he decides the only way to get ahead is to rob a bank. Not just any bank, but the bank vault that is located under the speedway track that holds all of the cash from the race days. To achieve this he enlists the help of his one-armed brother (another lucky Logan), his sister and a few of his associates who aren’t averse to the criminal side of life.
Anyone who is expecting a deep and meaningful take on the heist genre is going to be disappointed. What you see is basically what you get. This would have been a problem if the film were not so enjoyable. It is a combination of the talent on screen and the screenplay that raises it above the level of so many of its contemporaries. There is a balance between the more outrages, over the top elements and the more subdued and thoughtful characters. Channing Tatum and Adam Driver fall into the latter category.
Tatum is the at the centre of the drama. Jimmy is a down to earth guy who takes the (literal) blows that life hits him with and tends to roll with it. When he is let go from his job he doesn’t seek revenge but sees an opportunity to help himself out of his financial situation. The same as when his ex-wife informs him that she is moving away with his daughter. There is no outburst or anguish. Just a shrug and a ‘We’ll work it out comment’. Now this would be normal for a lot of people but to see a character living in rural West Virginia reacting this way is very much against type. Adam Driver is similarly refreshing. Having even more to be upset about he goes out of his way to be calmness personified. With their demeanour and their interactions you can see how they could actually be brothers even though they look absolutely nothing alike.
These performances leave more than enough room for the more outlandish performances. Daniel Craig as Joe Bang shows another side of his talents to great effect. He is given free rein to go wherever he wants with the character and it pays off in a performance that is one of the more surprising of the year. even though most of what he does is in service of the lightness of the story he also shows that the persona of Joe Bangs is carefully constructed to hide the fact that he is keenly intelligent and a serious individual. This is something that is repeated in most of the other central characters but it is something that you don’t fully realise until the latter half of the movie.
The best element of the film is something that is missing. With so many heist films, including the Ocean’s trilogy, there is a section where the planning of the job becomes a voice over montage scene. It means in effect you are getting to see the big pay off on two occasions even if the ‘real’ heist differs greatly from the plan. Here there is none of that. There is the build up and the planning which keep the audience engaged as you are trying to figure out how and if they will pull it off.
Overall, a light and thoroughly enjoyable take on the heist genre.