Soderbergh's "Logan Lucky" a smart and witty caper
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD copy; 2017; PG-13 for profanity and some crude comments; streaming via Amazon Video, FandangoNOW, Google Play, iTunes (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube
Best extra: Just three minutes of deleted scenes
DIRECTOR Steven Soderbergh likes heist movies.
He first teamed with George Clooney in the highly successful "Ocean's" trilogy, "Eleven," "Twelve," and "Thirteen." Combined, they topped the billion-dollar box office mark. The ensemble cast – a key ingredient to the genre – featured a crew played by Brad Pitt, Bernie Mac, Don Cheadle, Matt Damon, Casey Affleck, Carl Reiner and Elliott Gould, and Julia Roberts as Danny Ocean's wife. The original "Ocean's 11" (1961) starred the Rat Pack with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and company.
Heist films got their kick start in the early 1950s with John Huston's "The Asphalt Jungle" (1950) which was nominated for four Oscars. It was followed by British crime caper "The Lavender Hill Mob" (1951) with Alec Guinness as a mild mannered bank clerk with a plan to melt gold bars into souvenir Eiffel Towers. "Rififi" (1955) had a dialogue-free, 28-minute safe-cracking sequence. "The Killing" (1956), from a 28-year-old Stanley Kubrick, showcased a daring racetrack robbery.
The films kept rolling with "The Italian Job" (1969) starring Michael Caine and Mini-Coopers, so good it inspired two remakes. Other films balanced humor, terror and plenty of suspense: "A Fish Called Wanda" (1988) in which Kevin Kline won an Oscar for Best Actor; Quentin Tarantino's "Reservoir Dogs" (1992) told in flashbacks; "The Usual Suspects" (1995), a neo-noir loaded with twists and turns, and Wes Anderson's first film, "Bottle Rocket" (1996) starring Texan brothers Owen and Luke Wilson. More recently, audiences have embraced "Now You See Me" and its sequel – 2013 and 2016 – with Mark Ruffalo, Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson.
Now along comes "Logan Lucky," a smart and witty caper with a touch of the Coen brothers. The script is from first-time writer Rebecca Blunt. It marks Soderbergh's comeback after a four-year, self-imposed hiatus.
And it's a big jump from "Ocean's" Vegas sophistication to the down-home West Virginia settings and accents of "Logan Lucky." There's also a great deal of heart in the saga of brothers Jimmy and Clyde Logan. Jimmy (Channing Tatum) hoped for a career in the NFL, but was derailed by what Clyde (Adam Driver) calls the Logan curse. Jimmy ended up in the coal mines, became injured, and now walks with a limp.
Clyde himself lost an arm during a second tour in Iraq. Back home, he becomes a one-armed bartender at the Duck Tape bar. Jimmy, now fixing sinkholes beneath the infield of the Charlotte Motor Speedway, is about to lose his job because he didn't list his bum leg on his application. His "preexisting condition" rocks the company insurance plan.
And he's desperate for cash, trapped in an ongoing custody battle for his little girl, Sadie (Farrah Mackenzie). She's prepping for the Miss Little West Virginia pageant, but also helps her dad as he works on his old Ford truck listening to John Denver songs. Ex-wife Bobbie Jo (Katie Holmes) is not sympathetic; she's planning a move to Lynchburg, Virginia, where her new husband's car dealership has expanded across the state line.
Wheels start turning for Jimmy and Clyde when the brothers decide to rob the Charlotte NASCAR speedway. Their hairdresser sister Mellie, (Riley Keough) will be the hot driver. The best safecracker guy in the region is Joe Bang (Daniel Craig, sporting a bleached blonde crew-cut), but he's behind bars, which means a breakout and a break back all in the same day. Craig steals the show in this "hillbilly heist."
Soderbergh handles the camera work (2.40:1 aspect ratio) with a Red Epic Dragon digital camera (6K or 4K) filming in Georgia and North Carolina, and then editing and mastering in 4K. The resolution is far superior to other versions, showing reference quality clarity and depth – especially in wide shots. The HDR10 toning is not as dramatic, but still richer and bolder from highlights to deep shadows, and natural facial toning to the colorful pageantry of the Coca-Cola 600 race in Charlotte.
Oddly, there's no Dolby Atmos or DTS: X expansive soundtrack. But audio remains active through DTS-HD six-channel sound. Deep bass rumbles throughout the racing scenes; environmental sounds surround the room in atmosphere, and a jazzy score from David Holmes, who handled the "Ocean's" trilogy, boosts the sound environment.
"Logan Lucky" doesn't disappoint, delivering plenty of flair, good pacing and slick editing. We only wish, Soderbergh had provided a commentary or Q&A interview.
— Bill Kelley III, High-def Watch producer