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Steven Soderbergh: Ranking his films

This week marks the official return to cinemas of Steven Soderbergh. Even though he never stopped working, it’s been a few years since he’s been in the film business, opting more for television in the interim. Well, that’s no longer the case. He has a movie hitting screens in a few days, the heist comedy Logan Lucky. This ensemble adventure is a real good time, marking something both rather similar and also a little different for the director. It’s essentially the perfect return for him. Beyond that, it’s just quality cinema. I’ll give you a little on it next, but after that, we’ll run down his filmography to date. Read on…

In case you missed it last time, a bit on Logan Lucky. Is the movie basically a hillbilly take on Ocean’s 11? Yes. Still, it’s a ton of fun. We meet Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) right as he’s being fired from a construction site for his limp, stemming from an old injury that ruined his promising football career. Faced with having to potentially hire an expensive lawyer to keep his daughter from moving too far away with his ex-wife Bobbie Jo Logan Chapman (Katie Holmes) and her new husband, Jimmy makes a seemingly spur of the moment decision. He decides to recruit his ex military and now one handed brother Clyde Logan (Adam Driver) for a robbery. Not just any robbery, either. He wants to rob Charlotte Motor Speedway, the place he worked construction on. Jimmy knows where the money gets moved during NASCAR events and wants some. They need someone who knows explosives though, and that’s where currently incarcerated Joe Bang (Daniel Craig) comes in. Teamed up with Joe and their sister Mellie Logan (Riley Keogh), the brothers set out to prove that the Logan name is not synonymous with bad luck. A humorous heist ensues, along with at least one or two twists. Soderbergh directs a script supposedly written by Blunt, though it’s apparently possible that she doesn’t exist. He also pulls triple duty as the cinematographer and film editor, though not using his normal pseudonyms. Rounding out the ensemble are the likes of Macon Blair, Brian Gleeson, Seth MacFarlane, Sebastian Stan, Hilary Swank, Katherine Waterston, Dwight Yoakam, and more. The score comes to us from David Holmes.

As previously mentioned, it’s great to have Soderbergh back. Interestingly, some of his best work has been with Tatum, a muse of sorts for him, it seems. Whether he actually wrote this in addition to directing (rumors have the aforementioned Blunt not existing and potentially being Soderbergh himself, or his wife Jules Asner), it’s a great combination of the Ocean’s 11 tone as well as Magic Mike. Late career Soderbergh is simply having a good time, and it rubs off on the audience. Best in show here, cast wise, is Craig, who steals his scenes, but it’s a strong ensemble overall. Craig just has the best material and runs with it, clearly embracing a non 007 role, with comedy as an added bonus.

Here now is how I would rank Soderbergh’s films to date:

27. The Underneath
26. Bubble
25. Kafka
24. The Good German
23. Schizopolis
22. King of the Hill
21. Full Frontal
20. Ocean’s Twelve
19. Ocean’s Thirteen
18. Ocean’s Eleven
17. And Everything Is Going Fine
16. Gray’s Anatomy
15. Side Effects
14. The Limey
13. Che: Part Two
12. Che: Part One
11. The Informant!
10. The Girlfriend Experience
9. Solaris
8. Haywire
7. Erin Brockovich
6. Logan Lucky
5. Contagion
4. Out of Sight
3. Sex, Lies, and Videotape
2. Magic Mike
1. Traffic

As you can see, his best movies, to me at least, are an eclectic mix. There’s his Oscar winning Traffic, as well as mainstream genre entertainment like Contagion, along with a delightful lark like Magic Mike. These flicks combine with others, such as Out of Sight, Sex, Lies, and Videotape, and Erin Brockovich to help paint a portrait of this particular filmmaker. Honestly, he’s never made a bad film in my book, even if some are decidedly better than others. Soderbergh is a unique director and auteur in the truest sense of the words. We’re lucky to have him on the big screen once again.

All in all, Friday brings Soderbergh back to us with Logan Lucky, a real good time at the movies. It fits in quite nicely with the rest of his filmography, marking an upper tier effort, in fact. If the Ocean’s movies had a baby with the vibe of Magic Mike (more specifically Magic Mike XXL, which Soderbergh helped out with but didn’t direct), that’s what Logan Lucky would amount to. It’s very good stuff and should carve out a nice little spot for itself during the tail end of the summer movie season. Give the film a shot and see what you think…

Be sure to check out Logan Lucky, in theaters this weekend!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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