Don’t call it a comeback. Four long years ago, Steven Soderbergh swore he was done making movies. He was retired. He would paint. He’d do television, including “The Knick” and “The Girlfriend Experience.” He’d work on “Mosaic,” a still-uncompleted TV film he’s been promising, for a couple years now, would be something completely different. But his saying he was finished with cinema turns out to be a lot like when David Lynch said he was finished with cinema: not quite the truth. Or least both changed their minds. Lo and behold, this summer brings Soderbergh’s 27th theatrical feature: the heist comedy “Logan Lucky.”
Described by Soderbergh as “the complete inversion of an ‘Ocean’s movie,” it stars Channing Tatum, Adam Driver and Riley Keough not as suave, snazzily dressed richies but as down-on-their-luck siblings out to swindle the Charlotte Motor Speedway. This requires getting their hands on a rock star bomb expert, played by Daniel Craig with a deeply funny Southern drawl. Trouble is: He needs to be sprung from prison first.
If you take it as its own three-minute entity, the “Logan Lucky” trailer is one of the most entertaining films of the summer. (It even brings back an old joke Soderbergh used in “Ocean’s Eleven” re: Julia Roberts, with the credit “And introducing Daniel Craig.”) An ad has to be more enjoyable than either of Memorial Day weekend’s failed or underperforming blockbusters. The movie it’s shilling looks like a throwback, the kind of star-studded comedic thriller Hollywood used to crank out before the age of non-stop franchises. And thank god for that, because variety is the spice of life, as we appear to have forgotten.
In fact, it’s not a typical Hollywood movie — or even a Hollywood movie at all. The only reason it exists is because Soderbergh, as he explains in the already-linked Entertainment Weekly Q&A, worked out a revolutionary business model that ditches the middle man (i.e., Hollywood). It’s being distributed partly by Soderbergh’s own, new company, Fingerprint Releasing, and indie label Bleecker Street, which has released the likes of “Eye in the Sky,” “Captain Fantastic” and “The Lost City of Z.” All the actors (also including Katie Holmes, Katherine Waterston, Hillary Swank and an unrecognizable Seth MacFarlane) worked for scale, and if the movie is a crossover smash, more of its grosses than usual will funnel back into the hands of the creators, who can then make more like it.
As Soderbergh admits, this type of model has been used before, if not quite at this scale and not for so transparent a crowd-pleaser. (Basically imagine if Soderbergh had made “Ocean’s Eleven” for cheap.) He hopes, if it works, that other iconoclastic filmmakers — Sofia Coppola, Alexander Payne, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu — will use it, too, thereby completely avoiding meddling execs who only want anonymously-directed tentpoles anyway. So please go see it on August 18, and not only so it will keep Steven Soderbergh interested in movies.
Watch the trailer below:
Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge