Tag Archives: Steven Soderbergh

Unsafe House


by Hope Madden

Sawyer Valentini (Claire Foy) is living your worst nightmare.

Having recently moved 400 miles from Boston to suburban Pennsylvania to escape her stalker, she begins seeing him everywhere. Shaken and without a support network, she visits an insurance-approved therapist in a nearby clinic.

She’s grateful for the ear, but upon completing her paperwork Sawyer finds that, due to the therapist’s diagnosis that Sawyer is a danger to herself or others, she is held involuntarily for 24 hours.

After punching an orderly she mistakes for her stalker, that 24 hours turns into one week. And now she’s convinced that the new orderly George is, in fact, her stalker David (Joshua Leonard—you know, doomed Josh from The Blair Witch Project!).

There a number of factors hard at work in Unsane‘s brisk 98-minute ride. Director Steven Soderbergh, by way of Jonathan Bernstein and James Greer’s script, lays bare some terrifying facts about our privatized mental health industry.

Seriously and deeply alarming.

He structures this critique with a somewhat traditional is-she-or-isn’t-she-crazy storyline. Anyone who watches much horror will recognize that uneasy line: you may be here against your will, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be here.

And the seasoned director of misdirection knows how to toy with that notion, how to employ Sawyer’s very real damage, touch on her raw nerve of struggling to remain in control of her own life only to have another’s will forced upon her.

Part of the film’s success is Soderbergh’s ability to put you in Sawyer’s headspace, which he does primarily through the use of iPhone 7. He claims to have filmed entirely on these phones, and whether or not that’s true, the shallow, oversaturated aesthetic creates the sense of delusion.

Foy’s performance is refreshingly unpleasant. Sawyer is tough to like, but she’s damaged and savvy in a way that feels authentic.

Leonard’s cloying neediness and bursts of violence match Foy’s formidable if brittle performance and a strong supporting cast including Juno Temple, SNL’s Jay Pharoah, Amy Irving and a spot-on Polly McKie.

Soderbergh relies on familiar tropes to say something relevant and in doing so creates a tidy, satisfying thriller.

Hillbilly Heist

Logan Lucky

by George Wolf

You’re not long into director Steven Soderbergh’s latest before you expect to see Brad Pitt standing around eating something.


Because Logan Lucky is essentially Soderbergh’s Ocean’s 11 with hillbillies, which had to intrigue Soderbergh when he first read the script from Rebecca Blunt. If that is her real name.

No, seriously, Blunt is rumored to be a pseudonym for the actual writer, who should just ‘fess up and take credit for this hoot of a heist homage.

Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) gets laid off from his job fixing sinkholes underneath Charlotte Motor Speedway, so he puts together a 10-point plan for his next career move. Two of those points are labeled “shit happens.”

The rest is simple.

Jimmy, his one-armed brother Clyde (Adam Driver) and their sister Mellie (Riley Keough), will bust redneck robber Joe Bang (Daniel Craig) out of jail to help them rob the speedway during the biggest NASCAR race of the year, and then have Joe back in the slam before anyone is the wiser.

Soderbergh structures everything to parallel his Ocean‘s films so closely that when he finally addresses that elephant outright, the only surprise is how often the rubes draw a better hand than the Vegas pretty boys.

Logan serves up indelible characters, fun suspense, finely tuned plotting and solid humor, including a hilarious bit with a prison warden (Dwight Yoakam) explaining to some rioting inmates why the next Games of Thrones novel isn’t available yet.

As Bang, Craig is a flat out riot, doing fine justice to the best character name since Chest Rockwell, and standing out in an ensemble (also including Katie Holmes, Seth MacFarlane, Katherine Waterston, Hilary Swank and Sebastian Stan) that shines from top to toe.

Assembled as precisely as a letter-perfect grift, Logan Lucky has smarts, charm and some downright weirdness. It’s a late August blast with more than enough fun to beat our summertime blues.



Two Sides of Soderbergh for Your Queue


This week, the latest from director Steven Soderbergh is out on DVD, and we’ll pair it with one of his earliest for a twofer from a guy whose style is hard to pin down.  Side Effects is a mystery thriller inside the world of pharmaceuticals, a new addition to his string of mid-budget genre pics. As is often the case with this particular genre, to say much more would be to give away too much. Coursing with Soderbergh’s cynicism and varnished with his laid back style, the film has more in store for you than the diatribe against Big Pharm it appears to deliver at first.

If you’re looking for something really, really different from the same filmmaker, let us recommend his 1996 effort Schizopolis. It is among the weirdest films you’ll ever see. Created as a way to clear Soderbergh’s creative cobwebs, this intensely self indulgent work (we mean that in the best way) follows Fletcher Munson (Soderbergh), speechwriter and emotionally distant husband, and dentist/doppelganger Jeffrey Korchek (Soderbergh again) through the obsessions that keep them from noticing the unsavory behavior of Elmo Oxygen. Or something.

Side Effects may include unusual career choices

by Hope Madden

Director Steven Soderbergh has worked with screenwriter Scott Z. Burns three times now, each instance a bit weaker than the last. Their first collaboration, The Informant!, was an unhinged gem of a flick owing as much to Matt Damon’s outstanding performance as to Burns’s knack with the English language. Next came Contagion, a better box office performer, but a less inspired effort.

Their third collaboration, Side Effects, offers a mystery thriller inside the world of pharmaceuticals. As is often the case with mystery thrillers, to say much more would be to give away too much. Coursing with Soderbergh’s cynicism and varnished with his laid back style, the film has more in store for you than the diatribe against Big Pharm it appears to deliver at first.

Unfortunately, plot holes seriously interrupt the impact of the mystery, but a solid cast helps bridge those gaps. Jude Law evolves cleverly from the modern doctor – overworked and ambitious – to something more raw, dirty and real. As his patient, Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) carries the film. It’s her picture, and she does with it what she wishes, thank God.

Like Soderbergh’s last several efforts – all mid-budget, off-season genre pics – Side Effects is an absorbing bit of entertainment you’ll dismiss after viewing. It’s better than most February releases, but worse than most Soderbergh pictures. What a funny turn for a career that began with the game changer Sex, Lies & Videotape.

3 stars (out of 5)