Thank the good Lord that Steven Soderbergh has emerged from his self-imposed retirement. “Logan Lucky” is a cinematic joyride from beginning to end, so do yourself a favor and hunt it down in a movie theater.
Taking place largely in West Virginia and North Carolina, the film centers on two brothers and a sister who are trying to overcome a rash of family bad luck. Channing Tatum gives his best performance to date as Jimmy Logan, a construction worker who can’t keep a job because of a limp caused by a previous leg injury. Brother Clyde, played by the talented Adam Driver, is a bartender who lost his left arm while serving in Iraq. Sister Mellie (Riley Keough in a breakout performance) simply wants to help her brothers find a bit of comfort and self-respect. Adding to Jimmy’s trauma is an ex-wife (Katie Holmes) who sees little need to help him fulfill his visitation obligations with their young daughter, Sadie.
Seeking to resolve their financial problems, the brothers conjure up a plan to have a small crew rob the underground bank storing proceeds from the NASCAR race taking place at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Their goal is to get this done during the race itself.
This film is wildly inventive, and the actors capture your attention as they play characters completely inconsistent with any of their prior performances. While Tatum and Driver are memorable as West Virginians with a hillbilly edge, wait until you see the performance of Daniel Craig, who steals the entire movie.
Here, he plays Joe Bang, a southern boy who is an explosives expert doing time in prison. With his crewcut and impish smile, Bang escapes to join our team on an adventure where they impersonate demented cousins of Robin Hood.
Seth McFarland is blisteringly funny playing Max Chilblain, a NASCAR owner dripping with unmatched arrogance. Also, look for unforgettable performances from Jack Quaid and Brian Gleason who play Fish and Sam Bang, two reborn idiots who help with the heist. And Hilary Swank surprises with her role as FBI Agent Sarah Grayson, a woman intent on finding out who pulled off the robbery.
And then there was Farrah Mackenzie, whose performance as Jimmy’s daughter will win you over in the same fashion that McKenna Grace did in her endearing role in this year’s “Gifted.” Wait until you see her singing John Denver’s “Country Roads” in a competition where she desperately hopes her father can attend. You all know that I cry easily in many films, but even you hard-nosed cynics will have trouble keeping your eyes dry during that scene.
“The Hitman’s Bodyguard”
“The Hitman’s Bodyguard” is an outrageously excessive film that is saved by the performances of Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson and Salma Hayek. Exceedingly violent and laced with screaming profanity from nearly every character, it is a film devoid of any charm.
Ryan Reynolds plays Michael Bryce, a recognized private security man who is brought to disgrace after failing to protect a prior client. He is now solicited to be a bodyguard for assassin Darius Kincaid (Jackson), who is needed to testify at The Hague against a Belarus dictator (Gary Oldman). The bulk of the film covers their attempts to avoid death over a 24-hour period.
Unfortunately, despite a salaciously funny performance by Hayek as the profane-laced, jailed spouse of Kincaid, you start to look at your watch as you watch the good guys simply get wounded while a horde of bad guys dies.
As noted, the relationship of Reynolds and Jackson saves the movie as you watch them evolve from protagonists to allies. But be warned that they seldom have a conversation that doesn’t involve repeated use of four-letter words, so I would advise you against going to church before seeing the movie and find a way to a confessional after leaving the theater.
“Wind River” resembles “Detroit” in that they are two valuable films having great meaning that are intentionally devoid of entertainment value. Written and directed by Taylor Sheridan, who received an Oscar nomination for writing last year’s “Hell or High Water,” it shines a dark light into the underbelly of life on a Native American reservation in present day Wyoming.
Jeremy Renner gives a commanding performance as Cory Lambert, a wildlife tracker whose job is to protect the cattle and sheep herds that roam the reservation. In the process, he discovers a dead Native American girl lying in the snow, and he becomes involved with law enforcement to find those responsible.
He eventually teams up with an FBI agent who is a bit out of her league. In the process, director Sheridan takes off on a journey that exposes the violent life led by many Native American women.
Elizabeth Olsen does a fine job as Agent Banner, as does Gil Birmingham, who plays Martin, the grief-stricken father of the deceased girl. Graham Greene also makes a valuable contribution to the film, here playing Ben, one of the few law enforcement agents on the large reservation. Both Birmingham and Greene have a way of capturing your attention with small performances as demonstrated by Greene in the underrated “The Shack” released earlier this year and Birmingham in the acclaimed “Hell or High Water.”
The film focuses on the desperate lives led by many young Native American women. To make matters worse, Lambert’s daughter had been killed years earlier, and he and his ex-wife (Julia Jones), a Native American, remain largely inconsolable.
The cinematography is spectacular as it shows Renner snowmobiling through the wilderness, frequently at high speeds. Having spent four days snowmobiling with my grandchildren in Yellowstone last year, the film has a beautiful backdrop that proved to be one of the most rewarding reasons to see it.•
• Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis at Pence Hensel LLC as of counsel. When he is not in the courtroom or the office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.