The actors who play or have played James Bond are so firmly identified with the role that their appearances in other films, especially those at odds with the adventures of the master-spy, provoke interest and excitement, particularly in the media. Daniel Craig in Logan Lucky is no exception, and many media reviews inevitably mention Bond in some way.
In the film directed by Steven Soderbergh, two brothers – Jimmy and Clyde Logan – attempt to pull off a heist during a NASCAR race with the help of an incarcerated explosives expert called Joe Bang, played by Daniel Craig.
A trawl through the reviews in the UK newspapers and other media outlets has revealed several references to Bond. Simran Hans focuses on the strangeness of Daniel Craig’s appearance, writing in The Observer that it is ‘bizarre to see Bond with a bleached buzz cut (not to mention a tiny tattoo of a star adorning his left cheekbone)’. Meanwhile, Geoffrey McNab in The Independent highlights Daniel Craig’s Southern accent, remarking that Craig’s ‘drawling accent that reminds you of Sheriff JW Pepper in Live And Let Die’.
Apart from mentioning Daniel Craig’s famous blue eyes, Andrew Lowry writing for Empire magazine suggests that Daniel Craig’s years as Bond have not allowed Craig to demonstrate his fine acting skills: ‘Those blue eyes of his — so cold as Bond — are here bulging with lunacy. He’s hilarious and totally convincing as someone far from the officer-class stylings of his day job; it’s a pleasure to be reminded of what a good character actor Craig can be.’
The write-up in the Express takes a similar view: ‘That dinner jacket is such a perfect fit, I’d almost forgotten about Daniel Craig the actor.’
Other reviewers have detected a certain glee in Craig’s performance in Logan Lucky, which has given him a chance to cut loose from his measured turns as Bond. Rebecca Lewis writes in The Metro that Craig’s casting as Bang flips ‘his most famous role as the cold British spy James Bond on its head’. Charlotte O’Sullivan of the Evening Standard remarks that ‘when in Bond mode he keeps the weirdness under wraps, but for this hillbilly heist comedy he lets it all hang out’. Beyond the UK, Anthony Lane writing in The New Yorker states: ‘so liberated does Craig appear, on a hollering vacation from his stern-visaged duties as James Bond, that his mood exalts the whole enterprise.’
It’s not the first time that reviewers have claimed that, away from the Bond films, actors have been able to flex acting muscles that they rarely have the opportunity to exercise as Bond, as if Bond’s tuxedo is more of a straitjacket than dinner-jacket. What’s more, this comes with a sense of liberation in their performances. For instance, in his review of The Tailor of Panama (2001) in The Guardian, Philip French thought that ‘the cleverest trick… is the casting of Pierce Brosnan, who's never been so good’. Ian Nathan reviewing The Matador (2005) for Empire magazine wrote that ‘we’ve never seen Pierce Brosnan so liberated — he’s a man reborn’. (Mind you, Pierce Brosnan’s tenure as Bond had ceased by this point, so possibly there had been something extra in his performance, just to show the Bond producers if nothing else.)
While Logan Lucky doesn’t appear to have set the box-office alight, the film has generally been very well received critically. Judging by some of the reviews, it has been difficult for the critics to watch Daniel Craig’s performance without having his most famous role in mind. There is a hint in some of the reviews too that by comparison James Bond is something of a lesser role. This seems a little unfair. After all, Daniel Craig’s Bond films have been critically acclaimed and award-winning, as well as box-office smashes, thanks in part to his abilities as an actor.