Logan Lucky (2017)
See How The Other Half Steals
Steven Soderbergh is definitely better at making movies than he is at calling it quits, the 54-year-old retiree returning to the director’s chair after ‘officially’ throwing in the towel in 2013 — the HBO Liberace biopic Behind the Candelabra slated as his final film. In his ‘down time,’ however, Soderbergh has directed, edited and photographed the entire series of The Knick (2014), executive produced shows such as Red Oaks (2014) and The Girlfriend Experience (2016) and even cut 2015’s Magic Mike XXL — didn’t the dude say he was going to explore painting? In view of this, Soderbergh’s return isn’t much of a surprise, his latest, Logan Lucky, a slickly directed, well-acted heist comedy that plays like an anti-glam version of his Ocean’s series — heck, a news reporter even utters the phrase Ocean’s 7-Eleven, at one point, which actually sums the whole movie up nicely.
Set in Hicksville, West Virginia, the story follows beefcake construction worker Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum), a divorced papa who’s tryin’ his best to support his little girl Sadie (Farrah Mackenzie), despite his injured leg and the notorious bad luck attached to his family name. After being laid off from work for liability reasons — someone from human resources having reported his pre-existing limp to management (which he conveniently left off his application form) — Jimmy decides to take what’s rightfully his by robbing the Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina, during a NASCAR race. You see, Jimmy had been employed at the track as a bulldozer, repairing sink holes, where he’d noticed that all the money at the venue was being transported via the pneumatic tube system — a network of air pressured pipes that funnel the cash into a large steel vault under the ground. Due to all the restoration work, the vault’s seismic-sensor alarm system had been temporarily de-activated, making the whole robbery too irresistible an opportunity to pass up.
To get the job done, Jimmy enlists the aid of his younger-brother Clyde (Adam Driver), a disenchanted barkeep with a prosthetic hand. Burdened with bad luck ever since he lost his forearm fighting in Iraq, the blank-faced Clyde believes in all the supernatural mumbo-jumbo surrounding his surname, the expressionless amputee blaming all of his misfortune on the infamous ‘Logan curse’ — a familial legend that can be traced back to their great-grandpappy. The brothers are also joined by their sister Mellie (Riley Keough), a backroads speed demon who owns a beauty salon, the smokin’ hot gearhead agreeing to be their getaway driver.
The down-on-their-luck trio also seek outside help from an eccentric bleached-blonde explosives expert who goes by the name of Joe Bang (Daniel Craig), the tattooed crim insisting that his numbskull ‘born-again’ brothers, Fish and Sam (Jack Quaid and Brian Gleeson respectively), are recruited as well. There is, however, one small catch … Joe’s still ‘in-car-cer-a-ted.’ And so, the team hatch a bonkers plan to break Joe out of the slammer for a few hours (long enough to help them blow the volt) and then sneak him back in before the warden (Dwight Yoakam) notices he’s missing. But, when a scheduling hiccup forces the siblings to execute the job during the annual Coca-Cola 600, the track’s most popular NASCAR event, the Logan curse re-emerges, threatening to derail their entire get-rich-quick scheme.
Written by first time screenwriter Rebecca Blunt — who’s suspected of being a fictitious person, possibly some kind of pseudonym for Soderbergh’s wife Jules Asner — Logan Lucky paints white, Southern working-class stereotypes in a positive light, along with their culture of taverns, trailer parks and small-town pageants. Embracing the Southern spirit, Blunt’s script is a rootin’-tootin’ good time, mainly when we’re dallying with the film’s colorful array of characters, some of who are one fry short of a Happy Meal. More hangout film than heist movie, filmmakers are careful not to give too much away too quickly — for instance, a lot of the Logan’s plan isn’t made clear until we watch it unfold, this adding to the overall surprise factor. There’s also a third act twist that’s bound to shock — revealing any more would be a crime.
Independently produced by Soderbergh’s new distribution company, Fingerprint Releasing, Logan Lucky moves at an unusually ridged yet refreshing pace. There’s a subplot revolving around a pompous NASCAR-affiliated, energy drink mogul named Max Chilblain (played by an unrecognizable Seth MacFarlane) and his health-conscious driver Dayton White (Sebastian Stan), which would’ve been emitted had this been made through the studio system, along with the eleventh hour arrival of a stern FBI agent, Sarah Grayson (Hilary Swank), who begins to snoop around after the burglary, the strait-laced officer becoming suspicious of everyone she comes into contact with. Let’s not forget about a bunch of riotous prison scenes, this b-plot featuring a side-splitting joke concerning George R. R. Martin and his A Song of Ice and Fire novels (or lack thereof) — bits that would’ve probably been trimmed by studio heads keen to keep the momentum flowing.
The top shelf ensemble cast, who mostly play against type, are all first-rate, each and every performance a winner. Channing Tatum, who’s become something of a Soderbergh regular, is wonderful as the sweet, John Denver enthusiast Jimmy, the Magic Mike (2012) star altering his diet to beer and pizza in order to bulk up for the part. Adam Driver, Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), nails the deadpan humor as Clyde, along with the West Virginian accent, the 33-year-old also mastering the art of making a martini with one hand — pretty impressive stuff. Then there’s Daniel Craig, Skyfall (2012), who steals every scene he’s in as the quirky chemistry-wiz Joe Bang, Craig chewing the scenery as well as a bunch of hard-boiled eggs. Then we have the wowzers Riley Keough, American Honey (2016), who commands the screen as Mellie Logan, a foxy hairdresser with spangly fingernails and a soft-porn wardrobe, even if her magnetic character could’ve done with a bit more screentime.
Katie Holmes, Go (1999) — yeah, she’s still around — is actually decent as Bobbie Jo, Jimmy’s embittered ex-wife, who threatens to move from West Virginia with their daughter, while David Denman, 13 Hours (2016), is good as her new hubby, Moody Chapman, a redneck car salesman that thinks Fast and the Furious is actually a family flick. Perhaps the weakest link in the chain is Katherine Waterston, Inherent Vice (2014), who portrays Sylvia Harrison, a roving doctor that administers free shots to country folk, Waterston basically disappearing after one brief (yet amiable) exchange.
Pilfering from the best of the heist genre, I’d say that Logan Lucky is much better than any of Soderbergh’s Ocean’s films. While, sure, these crooks aren’t robbing the Bellagio or running around in spiffy suits, but I’d rather watch G.I. Joe, Kylo Ren and Elvis’ granddaughter team up with James Bond to try and break into an underground cash-handling system, without any pesky studio interference, than sit through another George Clooney and Brad Pitt studio-produced caper any day of the week. Plus, Riley Keough. Again, wow!
4 / 5 – Recommended
Reviewed by Mr. Movie