Director Steven Soderbergh is back after a four year absence to pretty much re-imagine his own past movies, under a screenwriter alias, “Rebecca Blunt”. What does that mean? That means you get a redneck’s version of Ocean’s 11 & 13, with good ol’ boys, John Denver tunes, and the Charlotte Motor Speedway as a backdrop. Eeehaa!!
Channing Tatum is Jimmy Logan, a limping blue collar laborer at the racetrack who’s just trying to make ends meet, keep his adorable little 7-year-old daughter Sadie (Farrah Mackenzie) happy, and avoid his nasty ex-wife, Bobbie Jo (Katie Holmes). But life ain’t easy since he recently got fired and his quirky one-armed brother Clyde (Adam Driver) keeps reminding him of their family curse. With no money coming in, Jimmy comes up with a crazy, impossible scheme: wait until the huge Charlotte 500 race, tap into the main pneumatic tubes under the racetrack that leads to the main cash vault, suck out all the money out, and walaa! Sounds good on paper and in a diorama he made, but…
To pull off this heist, Jimmy and Clyde have to get explosives expert Joe Bang out of prison. 007’s Daniel Craig, sporting a short blonde crew cut and twangy accent, plays Joe who’s “In-car-cer-ate-ted”, and that’s where Plan B goes into effect. Clyde gets himself arrested to get inside the jail (OMG! Is that Dwight Yoakam as the warden?!) where Joe is to not only plan their escape together, but to secure an air-tight alibi later. Next, Joe’s not-quite-as-smart-as-him brothers, Sam and Fish (Brian Gleeson and Jack Quaid) are brought on for their “smarts” and skills, while Jimmy’s sexy sister, Mellie (Riley Keough) will provide back-up and drive like a bat outta hell.
A staged prison riot sets the caper into motion the day of the mammoth Coca-Cola 500 race, with Seth MacFarlane going off as an obnoxious British driver. As little Sadie prepares to sing her heart out at a pageant, Clyde & Joe escape and meet everyone under the speedway for the pilfering of millions of dollars. Things go sideways, naturally, and everyone scrambles to make it out in one piece with the stolen loot.
Unlike the Oceans 11 scenario where, once the money is stolen and the happy thieves divvy up the wampum, here the plot shifts into fourth gear and the story keeps going. Intrepid FBI agent Sarah Grayson (Hilary Swank) is on the case, while Jimmy has gone and done something rather peculiar with the money. If you’re familiar with Soderbergh’s previous heist film’s, you can figure out what happens. I guess he didn’t want to stray too far from his favorite formula.
At 2hrs, it does get long-winded and little dull at times waiting for the inevitable to arrive, but Soderbergh does not fail in his key moments. His trusty David Holmes jazzy musical score (just like in Ocean’s 13) is there as always, his playing with the focus-puller (for depth of field) is exploited, and his signature laid-back camera moves are every- where. I especially liked Sadie’s singing Take Me Home, County Roads; a nice lump-in-your-throat moment. The dialogue isn’t as rich and textured as in his last films, but there are a few comical lines here and there. Soderbergh is NOT known for his exceptional screenplays (remember Solaris and Criminal?)
Okay, so it’s not a LOL heist comedy like Masterminds or Quick Change, nor is it on the level of his masterful Ocean’s 11 or 13 films, but it is nice to see him back in action again, even if it is doing literally the same thing over again. I will say that getting Channing Tatum to play a limping, overweight, down-on-his luck, loving redneck father was very cool, not to mention Kylo Ren and James Bond going WAY against type.
Bank Shot (1974)
You want inept thieves? I give you this silly little comedy from the 70’s starring one the great actors of the century: George C. Scott. WHY he did this nutty piece of work is anybody’s guess (Needed the work? House payments? Alimony?).
We begin with criminal genius Walter Ballantine (Scott) being asked to participate in a bank heist while still he’s in prison. First he needs to bust out of jail, which he does with a little help from a bulldozer and sexy lady-crook, Elenora (Joanna Cassidy). Faster than you say, “Assemble the team”, a villainous assortment of oddballs is collected: weird and very nervous Al (Sorrell Booke), his former FBI son, Victor (Bob Balaban), explosives expert Herman X (Frank McRae), and lovely Mums (Bibi Osterwald). Their plan is to rob a bank and, after careful planning, Ballantine comes up with the ingenious idea of stealing the entire building since THIS bank is more like a small home.
Meanwhile, the cops are hot on his trail, led by the totally inept Lt. “Bulldog” Streiger (Clifton James) who knows about Ballantine and his methods. With incredible audacity, Ballantine’s team of crazies actually pull it off, managing to hoist the bank/mini-home on wheels and take it away! Disguising it so that looks like a trailer home, they book their new “house” into a trailer park while the heat cools. . .but there’s a problem. The safe inside the bank is the toughest ever made and opening it is impossible. Drills, acid, torches, nothing is working.
As Bulldog and the police are closing in on their location, that safe is proving a tough nut to crack, so as a final resort, Victor brings in nitro-glycerine to blow that sucker apart! Taking the whole trailer/home/bank to the beach, they blow the whole thing to kingdom come, opening the safe alright, but with disastrous consequences. It’s funny that Wendall Mayes, who wrote this cartoony screenplay, also wrote such great scripts like The Poseidon Adventure and The Spirit of St. Louis.
Shot like a Billy Wilder-wannabe movie, Gower Champion directed this fast-paced, occasionally amusing little film that is about as over-the-top as you can get. This was his one and only movie, as Champion was known primarily for his Broadway direction & choreography.
Even stranger was Academy Award winner George C. Scott doing this schlock when, only four years earlier, he had received an Oscar for Patton. Call this movie zany or outrageous, it’s about 80 minutes of Laugh-In style humor (prat-falls, wild double-takes, etc) that’s harmless. Check out the supporting cast though, they look like they’re having the time of there lives making a really dumb movie next to Scott, which must’ve been a thrill for them at the time!