September 9th 2017

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Our unsafe schools are putting students at risk

EDITORIAL Turnbull needs a circuit breaker or he's a goner

CANBERRA OBSERVED 'What's the question?' is the crucial question

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Beijing applauds jailing of Hong Kong activists

NATIONAL AFFAIRS The economic agenda Australia needs won't come from Mal or Bill

MARRIAGE AND FAMILY Child-support payments and parental alienation

MARRIAGE AND LAW NSW Law Society spruiks for same-sex marriage

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Germany's energy plan: a disaster in the making

MUSIC Monetising the muse: 'Frugal comfort' would be welcome

CINEMA Logan Lucky: Southern fried robbery

BOOK REVIEW Serious Bioethics salted with humour




CANBERRA OBSERVED Love may be love, but certainly consequences are consequences

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Logan Lucky: Southern fried robbery

by Symeon J. Thompson

News Weekly, September 9, 2017

Logan Lucky is a most unexpected motion picture, a patriotic heist pic from the director of Ocean’s 11 with the tag line: “See How the Other Half Steals” and, unusually, for a current movie, has relatively little swearing (it is there, but it’s not as prominent as in similar movies), no sex or nudity, and little violence.

Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) is let go from his construction job due to “liability reasons” – he has a limp and HR is worried. His brother Clyde (Adam Driver) is a bar tender and war veteran. He lost his arm in Iraq. His little daughter Sadie (Farrah Mackenzie) is prepping for the local beauty pageant, with the help of Jimmy’s beautician sister Mellie (Riley Keough), and his ex-wife Bobbie Jo (Katie Holmes) is planning on moving away with her new husband, Moody Chapman (David Denham), a wealthy car dealership owner who has two bratty sons of his own.

Things aren’t going well for the Logans, so Jimmy hatches a plan to rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway. His construction job involved filling in the sinkholes at the speedway, so he knows all about the security there. They just need someone who knows how to blow up a bank vault. Enter Joe Bang (Daniel Craig), a peroxided Southern safecracker with high blood pressure and such an impressive knowledge of chemistry you wonder why he doesn’t just go straight. The only problem is that he is, as he drawls to the brothers, “in-car-cer-ated”.

Then there’s Max Chilblain (Seth MacFarlane), an obnoxious British businessman with his own brand of overcharged energy drink who’s the sponsor for returning champion racecar driver Dayton White (Sebastian Stan).

Logan Lucky is Steven Soderbergh’s return to the big screen. The indie darling, acclaimed by critic Roger Ebert as the “poster boy of the Sundance generation”, retired from moviemaking to focus on television a few years ago. Soderbergh is renowned for his ability to make commercial movies with an arthouse sensibility, crafting such acclaimed films as Erin Brokovich (2000), Traffic (2000) – which won him the Best Director Oscar – and, of course, the Ocean’s trilogy (2002, 2004 and 2007) starring George Clooney, which was a remake of the classic Rat Pack heist flick.

In many ways, Logan Lucky is an Ocean’s-style robbery movie for the working class, if not the working poor. Even within the film the robbery is referred to as “Ocean’s Seven-Eleven”. Soderbergh, working from a script from first-time screenwriter Rebecca Blunt (it has been claimed that Soderbergh is Blunt, but he strongly denies this), has crafted a deft character study of regional America with the heist plot as the driver of the action. Much like Mike Judge and Greg Daniels’ superb animated series King of the Hill (1997–2009), it clearly sees its subjects as decent folk, deserving of respect, even while gently sending them up.

These folk are hard-working, hard-luck types, hard-done-by by faceless corporations and a system that privileges education of the sort that requires a bit of money. They are immensely proud of their home and their country. The depth of their patriotism is on display during LeAnn Rimes’ singing of the national anthem, with its complementary display of military pride, and the way a whole room can break into singing John Denver’s Take Me Home, Country Roads.

It is the best side of the world that J.D. Vance depicts in his acclaimed memoir, Hillbilly Elegy, and that Rod Dreher writes of in The Little Way of Ruthie Leming. It’s also a world, I’d suggest, that has a bit in common with our own regional and rural communities.

However, while these themes are present, Logan Lucky is still a comedy-driven heist film. The comedy is more dry than uproarious, but it’s still funny. You’ve never seen a prison riot until you’ve seen one where the main demand from the prisoners is to get the latest Game of Thrones novels. Or a prison run by a warden (played by legendary country singer-songwriter Dwight Yoakam) who declares matter of factly that the jail has no issues – even while his guards have been captured.

Logan Lucky is a surprising film, a gentle heist movie, with a very clever twist or two. With great performances and beautiful cinematography, it paints an engaging picture of another side of America. And the ending makes it seem like there’s more to come.

Symeon J. Thompson is a member of the Film Critics’ Circle of Australia (FCCA).

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