Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) is a hard luck case, from a family who are notorious for their bad luck: whenever it seems things are going well, a spanner will be introduced to the works and it all goes horribly wrong once again. Take today when he is called into the office of his boss (Jim O'Heir) at the construction company he works for and is told he must be fired, because he has been spotted walking with a limp, which means he is unsafe to be driving the trucks and machinery; them's the rules and Jimmy returns home frustrated and deflated. He is already having trouble with his ex-wife Bobbie Jo (Katie Holmes) who wants to take their daughter (Farrah Mackenzie) out of the state for good - what else can happen?
Perhaps Mr Logan, who is not the Scottish comedian Jimmy Logan, it should be pointed out, should take a tip that you can make your own luck, and try to engineer better fortunes for himself, even though the dictates of fate appeared to be buffeting him around his existence like a boat in a storm. What better plan than to carry off a brazen robbery, then? Not everyone would take that route, but this was a Steven Soderbergh movie, from the man who had directed three Ocean's 11 heist flicks, so it would seem he was keen to apply himself to another one in decidedly less classy and more down at heel circumstances, for a change of pace now he had returned to the director's chair.
This was after four years away, four years after announcing a retirement nobody found very convincing, since he was still working in different capacities on films and television, therefore had plainly not left the industry and may have even directed Magic Mike XXL under the name of one of his crew. Continuing his trickster sensibility, the screenwriter here, credited as Rebecca Blunt, probably didn't exist, supposedly a British writer making her debut but more likely someone closer to Soderbergh - like Soderbergh himself. Quite why he felt the need to carry on all these subterfuges and misdirections was up to him, and there was certainly nobody else in the film world pursuing this angle.
Of course, some may find this an annoying aspect of his work, and it was true it carried over into this film, as the feeling of watching some enormous put-on was never far away. That also translated to a sense of insincerity, as if you were not supposed to take any of this seriously and if you did, then the joke was on you, therefore if you did not you were in on that joke and therefore smarter than those who expected a straightforward robbery thriller. What you had on offer instead was a nimble dance around the clichés of that form, such as the prison break or the unexpected (but totally expected) obstacle the thieves had not counted on, presented with a sly wink to those who saw through its apparently deadpan machinations to the bagatelle it actually was, a movie that was nothing more and nothing less than its own self.
And if that self was a shallow, occasionally hilarious, comedy with dramatic overtones for the bits with Jimmy's struggles to make it in this harsh world, then so be it. It had to be pointed out the accents here were sent into overdrive with everyone attempting a West Virginian cadence as strong as possible, almost to the point of self-parody on the part of many of the performers, apart from Seth MacFarlane playing an obnoxious motor racing billionaire, who knows what accent he was attempting? The racing was the centre of the heist, but not the film, as Jimmy and his brother Clyde (Adam Driver) joined forces with bleach-blond safecracker Joe Bang (Daniel Craig) who is unfortunately incarcerated in a local prison, and his two brothers, with help from the Logan sister Mellie (Riley Keough). The central sequence where the theft took place was satisfyingly intricate, and it had a breezy tone offsetting rather unconvincing soul-searching moments, yet that suspicion Soderbergh was putting one over on us was never far away. Music by David Holmes.
[Studio Canal's Blu-ray has deleted scenes as an extra, and that's your lot.]
Versatile American writer, director and producer whose Sex Lies and Videotape made a big splash at Cannes (and its title has become a cliche). There followed an interesting variety of small films: Kafka, King of the Hill, noir remake The Underneath, Schizopolis (which co-starred his ex-wife) and Gray's Anatomy.
Then came Out of Sight, a smart thriller which was successful enough to propel Soderbergh into the big league with The Limey, Erin Brockovich, Oscar-winning Traffic and classy remake Ocean's 11. When Full Frontal and his Solaris remake flopped, he made a sequel to Ocean's 11 called Ocean's 12, material he returned to with Ocean's 13. Che Guevara biopics, virus thriller Contagion and beat 'em up Haywire were next, with the director claiming he would retire after medication thriller Side Effects and Liberace biopic Behind the Candelabra. He returned after a period of even greater activity with heist flick Logan Lucky.