Back from a four-year hiatus, Steven Soderbergh returns with a funny and impeccably-shot (I wouldn’t expect any less from Soderbergh) heist movie that shines with its intriguing and likable characters. Logan Lucky, or “Ocean’s Seven-Eleven” as the heist is referred to by some woman on the news (in the film) is a fun ride with phenomenal use of mise en scène.
A John Denver song opens this film, this is now the third time John Denver has been referenced in a movie this year (Alien: Covenant and Free Fire) being the other uses of “Take Me Home, Country Roads”. It’s just interesting that this year’s movies seem to have a fascination with John Denver and that specific song. I hate to dwell on this but I just think its a really funny pattern. This introduces us to Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) a football player that had his career was cut short by a leg injury. It turns out that the whole Logan family are notorious for a family curse. Clyde (Adam Driver), Jimmy’s brother lost his arm while in military. After Jimmy loses his construction job, he decides to pull off a heist at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. It isn’t just Clyde and Jimmy that really make this movie. It’s the other characters too. Pretty much all are cleverly sculpted to be the right amount of absurd and realistic. Joe Bang (Daniel Craig) specifically. This is a performance that I have never seen Craig take on as an actor, a country fried criminal. The only performance that seemed lacking was Hillary Swank as FBI agent Sarah Grayson, her whole part of the movie seemed a bit weird and it slowed the movie down to a screeching halt. Luckily her role was minor and slowed down the movie for only about ten minutes, if not even.
The great thing about Soderbergh is that he is a cinematographer as well as a director so, he has a great understanding of both positions in the industry. This film in particular has some really interesting shots as well and the whole movie has a sort of vibrancy that is unmatched by anything that has come out this year.
A Soderbergh heist movie has fun with the outrageous plot. The three Ocean’s movies were so far-fetched and over the top in how they pulled off their heists that they made it a fun and crazy endeavor to watch. Logan Lucky is no different, it involves a Jimmy and Clyde meeting with a man dressed in a bear suit, a prison riot that is negotiated down to getting George R.R. Martin to release The Winds of Winter, and painted cockroaches. This is a very layered movie that I wanted to watch again as soon as I left the theater and I think most will feel the same way.
David Leitch’s Atomic Blonde is a confusing John Wick (2014) (another one of the films he has directed). And what I mean by that is that the plot is much too convoluted for its own good. Don’t get me wrong, it is still awesome, but it’s a shame that they didn’t attempt to make it more focused of a film than what turned out in the end.
Atomic Blonde is violent. Beautifully violent. The various color filters blanket the terrifically choreographed fight sequences, filled with 80s music. (murder to “Father Figure” by George Michael anyone?). This is expected from director David Leitch, as he had over a decade-long career in stunts before deciding to direct. And the way the film looks also stays very true to the fact that the source material that it was based off of was a graphic novel. It may not be as obvious as how much Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010) was inspired by the graphic novel that it was based off of, but certain scenes like the fight scene during a screening of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker (1979) (sweet reference by the way!) it can be obviously seen. Then there are scenes like the fight scene on the stairs; which is a whopping nine-minute continuous shot. It feels much more realistic as if it was more from a Bourne movie rather than the over-the-top action shown prior. It was still an enjoyable scene but it did feel jarringly different from other action.
Charlize Theron kills it as the lead character, Lorraine Broughton. Theron really succeeds as playing the part of a heartless and kick-ass secret agent. Delphine (Sofia Boutella) is the only character that felt a little pointless to have in the film. James McAvoy plays an archetype of character that he portrayed in Filth (2013), for those who have not seen that film, McAvoy plays a run of the mill, wild card/crazy guy as agent David Percival. All I can say that if you have seen McAvoy in other things that don’t include X-Men then you know what you are going to get. John Goodman is also there, and just does what he does best, at least for the role he was given.
Now to get to the problem that I had with Atomic Blonde, the plot. It starts out strong as a heavily stylized spy-thriller but, it slowly becomes more perplexing as the plot thickens and then the “big reveal” at the end feels cheap and unearned for what the film was trying to go for. This could also be because of the weird pacing at the end of the movie. But a re-watch may confirm my suspicions about that being the main issue.
So basically, if you wanna see cool shots of cool violence and watch Charlize Theron wear a bunch of wigs and fancy outfits, then Atomic Blonde is the movie for you. The plot may be a bit of a jumble, but it still is just really cool, and I think that point alone counts it as a movie that is definitely worth watching.
Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit is something that I feel quite mixed about. It is definitely well made; and it has some terrific parts and performances. But the first and final acts take away from the experience of the picture.
First, the good. I really enjoyed how the movie was shot. It was done in that documentary-style that other directors like Paul Greengrass enjoy using. It added to the atmosphere of the movie and made it seem much more gritty and real. Which is smart as this is a dramatization of something that was inspired by a real life event. Will Poulter is the stand out actor in the film. If anyone will be getting an award for this movie, it will probably be him. As the main villain, he is menacing, and terrifying and all the right ways. Everyone else did a good job with the material, like John Boyega and Anthony Mackie as well. The dialogue, with a few exceptions was also pretty solid for the most part. It helped develop the characters and who they were as people without explaining everything. The whole scene in the Algiers Motel is so well done that it is thrilling and helps display Mark Boal’s screenwriting abilities. (Check out Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker (2008) to also see Boal’s talents as a writer).
As for my gripes with the movie, it all started with the editing. I disliked the cutting to real photos of the 1967 Detroit riots. It felt unnecessary to include and took me away from the actual movie. In the beginning, the film also felt oddly paced when leading up to the riots. As that part was rushed way too much and needed some more buildup. The ending also felt drawn-out and probably deserved less time then it was given. I understand what they were trying to do with the end of the movie.
With Detroit, the sad thing is that the whole middle of the film is an intense and emotional ride. And it is sadly book-ended by a mediocre and poorly paced beginning and end. Bigelow picked an interesting script about a deeply saddening event that happened, but I think that it could have been executed a little better than it turned out. But that doesn’t change the fact that Will Poulter is an extremely talented actor that gave it is all in this film.