Thursday, August 31, 2017

Rapid Reviews: Logan Lucky and Good Time

Early in 2013 Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh announced that he was through with Hollywood and declared Side Effects as his final film. Less than a handful of years have passed and Soderbergh is back in the game, re-teaming with his Magic Mike star Channing Tatum in the new screwball heist comedy Logan Lucky. The critics continue to fawn over Soderbergh's work, and although the film's hardly the type of effort to emerge from retirement to deliver, Logan Lucky marks another successful endeavor from the filmmaker.

After Jimmy Logan (Tatum) loses his job and then learns that his ex (Katie Holmes) plans to move their daughter further away than he finds acceptable, the one-time football star pitches a heist idea to his one-and-a-half-armed brother (Adam Driver). The siblings embark on an unconventional plan to rob a NASCAR venue on race-day that includes breaking a fellow partner (Daniel Craig) out of jail to pull this thing off. And with the odds stacked completely against them, and time certainly not on their side, the Logan brothers hope to break from their cursed family history.

As the visionary behind the Oceans trilogy, heist films are far from uncharted territory for Steven Soderbergh. Yet, he uses some familiar elements in conjunction with a fresh crop of quirky characters to deliver a smooth and enjoyable ride. Channing Tatum continues to show he's an effective lead, all while Adam Driver quietly steals the show. In tandem they provide enough laughs and slow-witted misdirection to help make the impossible a reality. Logan Lucky is never as hilarious as it should be, yet Rebecca Blunt's carefully crafted screenplay maneuvers through the robbery with masterful precision that helps solidify the film. Perhaps Logan Lucky's achievements are a bit embellished, thanks to an outpouring of critical adoration, but the film still stands as a strong return for Soderbergh.

Stars: 2 and a half stars out of 4

Grade: B-

Indie filmmaking siblings Josh and Benny Safdie have quietly delivered highly regarded short and feature films over the last ten years. But none of their timely work has made a splash as big as their latest Cannes selection and Best Composer winner, Good Time. Teaming with a nearly unrecognizable Robert Pattinson and co-starring Benny Safdie himself, Good Time blends together a stylish vision with a pulse-pounding original score that provides relentless thrills.

Connie Nikas (Pattinson) cares deeply for his mentally disabled brother Nick (Benny Safdie), even if he's too blind to notice his toxic influence on him. And after a bank robbery sends Nick into the brutal prison system and Connie on the run from the cops, the fugitive will do whatever it takes to get his brother out of jail. Yet, Connie's foiled plan sends him on a wild chain of events that even he can't control anymore.

The first thing you notice about Good Time is Daniel Lopatin's gripping score. But the film offers plenty more, piecing together a stimulating character study with sleek direction. Robert Pattinson has transformed his career since the early Twilight days, tackling diverse roles that are often small in stature but exceptionally delivered. He takes over the screen in Good Time, commanding your attention with his survivalist mentality and dwarfing the performances of everyone around him, including Oscar nominees Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight) and Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips). However, for all of Good Time's strong attributes, the film frustrates witha bitterly unrealistic sequence of events that takes 100 minutes to end up exactly where it should have been after only a half hour. But despite this infuriating blemish with its script, Good Time still represents a fine independent effort from Robert Pattinson and the Safdie brothers.

Stars: 2 and a half stars out of 4

Grade: B-

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