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Logan Lucky • Crown Heights

Augstu 31, 2017

Logan Lucky (***) PG-13

Steven Soderbergh , the director with a nearly perfect record­—his film Full Frontal being one of the few true misfires littering his resume­­­­­—has returned to the filmmaking game with Logan Lucky. Though the director swore he had officially retired after helming his 2013 biopic Behind the Candelabra, there weren’t many who’ve followed his career that actually took him seriously. His latest endeavor proves that filmmaking is in Soderbergh’s blood and that he’s lost none of his touch in the past four years of inactivity that I prefer to refer to as simply a layoff.

Considering that his series of Oceans films (Oceans 11, 12, 13) have proven to be his most commercially viable projects, Soderbergh’s latest is a similar story with one interesting twist. The characters here all hail from the Deep South. And when I say Deep South I’m referring to West Virginia and, our very own home state of North Carolina. This cast of southern misfits find themselves involved in a heist that they are on the verge of being ill equipped to pull off and their buffoonery is one of the things that allows the film to succeed as much as it does.

Channing Tatum, teaming once again with Soderbergh in one of those director-actor relationships reminiscent of DeNiro and Scorsese, is the center of the film, a down on his luck veteran named Jimmy Logan.

Daniel Craig & Dwight Yoakum in Logan Lucky

Jimmy has trouble finding work due to his lingering war injuries. When he loses his latest job working on a construction project at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, he’s inspired to pull off a heist after discovering the kinks in the system that the Speedway uses to stash its cash during racing events.

He  assembles a rag-tag band of accomplices which includes Adam Driver as Jimmy’s brother, Clyde­—also a war vet who lost his arm and now tends bar—and Daniel Craig as Joe Bang. Joe Bang being the only explosives expert Jimmy knows and who, unfortunately, is currently locked away in jail. Seth McFarlane, Katie Holmes, Riley Keough, Dwight Yoakum and Hillary Swank round out the cast in amusing supporting roles as well as newcomer, Farrah Mackenzie, who capably fills the role of Jimmy’s daughter, Sadie.

The biggest chunk of the film depicts the conception and planning of the heist. It’s mostly played for laughs and that works well enough, I suppose. It’s only when the film takes a tonal shift during the latter half that my enthusiasm started to ebb a bit.     

Still, even though it’s not a perfect film, it’s great to see a seasoned filmmaker such as Soderbergh doing what he does best. His enthusiasm and affection for the material and his cast certainly shine here. It’s not something that can easily be deemed a heavy hitter but for what it is, Logan Lucky is pleasing and digests easily enough.

Logan Lucky is playing everywhere in this area, in cluding the AMC 15 in Hickory.
 

 Crown Heights (** ½) R

Director Matt Ruskin’s (The Infiltrator) new film Crown Heights tells a story that we’ve seen many times before and in many other incarnations and not breaking much new ground in the process. It’s the story of a man wrongfully imprisoned and doing his best to survive until justice can hopefully be served. The over familiarity factor in regards to the subject matter is one of the film’s biggest demerits, although I’m not sure that Ruskin or his film are to be blamed.  The simple truth is that Crown Heights is a little too late to the game to make much of an impact in spite of the fact that the passion can be felt throughout the film’s unspooling.

On April 10, 1980, an African American teenager is gunned down on a Brooklyn street in plain view.  The investigators put pressure on a supposed witness from the nearby Crown Heights neighborhood to identify the perpetrator, which unfortunately turned out to be the wrong guy.

Lakeith Stanfield in Crown Heights

It’s a story that’s been heard many times and will continue to rear its ugly head. In a text crawl at the film’s end it states that 120,000 prisoners are likely serving time for crimes they never committed. That’s a staggering statistic and a very sobering thought.

In the case of Colin Warner (Lakeith Stanfield), over twenty years of the man’s life were spent behind bars for a crime in which he had no part. What at first looked to be a short stay turned into months and then months into years and so on. Luckily for Colin, his childhood friend, K.C. (Nnamdi Asomugha) never gave up, spending untold sums of money, cutting through legal red tape and going through appeal after appeal in an effort to get Colin a fair shake at justice. The outcome is really never in doubt but K.C.’s struggles are what form the basis of the most interesting sections of the film.

Director Ruskin, who also scripted, tries his best to keep things fresh and interesting but it’s a nearly impossible task thanks to the large number of stories like this that have already been told. Plus, one can add that Crown Heights contains more than a few structural problems in the storytelling department that does it no favors. One can appreciate what Ruskin was trying to do but he never quite pulls it off in an emotionally satisfying way. The film has some compelling moments but just never reaches seems to get off the ground the way it should. 

Crown Heights is not currently playing in this area.     

Questions or comments? Write Adam at filmfan1970@hotmail.com.

 

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