If your script is good enough to pull Steven Soderbergh from “retirement,” color me intrigued. Such is true of Logan Lucky. An Ocean’s 7-11 hootenanny oozing Southern charm and Coen sensibilities. Dimwitted yokels and mega-rich British playboys collide as Soderbergh orchestrates a blue collar heist rife with John Denver lyricism. Think The Dukes Of Hazzard meets…well, Oceans 11 – Rebecca Blunt’s script is too “Soderbergh” NOT to be a Soderbergh production. You know the beats. You can expect a generous helping of country-fried calamity. There was only one man for this job, and luckily for them Logan boys, Soderbergh has one last hurrah left in the tank. Or *at least* one more…
Channing Tatum stars as Jimmy Logan, a gimpy divorced father who just wants to do right by daughter Sadie (Farrah Mackenzie). Mama Bobbie Jo (Katie Holmes) roped a car-dealer new husband in Moody (David Denman), who allows financial stability – but Sadie is most illuminated around her real father. That’s why Bobbie Jo’s plans of moving from West Virginia to Virginia infuriate the recently-fired Jimmy. He’s sullen, poor and losing hope. Then it hits him. Why not steal enough money to solve all his problems? Brother Clyde (Adam Driver) is in (after resisting), Joe Bang (Daniel Craig) is in, sister Mellie (Riley Keough) gives a “hell yeah” – Charlotte Motor Speedway will never see it coming.
You didn’t think this was another bank robbin’ boondoggle, did you? Nah. Jimmy and Clyde keep things fresh. Aiming for an underground vault while the Coca Cola 600 revs overhead.
Soderbergh’s world-building embraces the dusty highway stop-offs between Boone County, WV and Charlotte, NC. Dingy bars – like Clyde’s workplace Duck Tape – aren’t easily forgotten, and characters all boast such unique personalities/identifiers far deeper than physical attributes (Clyde’s arm, Max Chilblain’s perm). Joe Bang’s heehaw enthusiasm butts heads with the Logans’ “simplistic” nature, and couldn’t be farther from Dayton White’s automaton driver (who defines his body as a Mac OS system). This process begins with Blunt’s scripting, but achieves life through Soderbergh’s vision. You’ll love spending time with these characters, as slapstick, honky-tonkin’ and beer-swilling they are.
This is Tatum, Driver and Keough’s movie to own, and it’s Driver who pulls ahead. Tatum garbles his drawl and Keough is a confident stunner. Seth MacFarlane’s mouthy Brit (Max Chilblain) gets his greasy curls rattled by punches, Katie Holmes epitomizes the name “Bobby Joe,” Farrah McKenzie is a sweet little Southern daughter – but Driver’s paranoia establishes necessary legends. Not since Inside Llewyn Davis has his accent been more on point, and his pronunciation of “cauliflower” is a golden nugget. Whether Driver’s whipping up cocktails with one arm or just exuding his mouth-breather gaze, Clyde Logan ropes you like a runaway calf. Rarely outdone (see below) and always hilariously skeptical.
In early trailers, Logan Lucky introduced a demolitions expert called Joe Bang – Daniel Craig’s bleach-blonde inmate – who became an instant social media favorite. So does hype doom Joe by instituting unachievable expectations? His cackle is infectious and good-old-boy genius stops traffic. Neil DeGrasse Tyson would approve of Joe’s “scientific” MacGyver coolness, especially when he PAUSES THE ROBBERY to chalk chemical formulas ON THE VAULT’S WALL and blueprint his gummy-bear bomb. It’s such a pure moment of schoolboy hilarity, unattainable without Craig’s selling of such a random aside. Does Joe Bang deliver? Like a combustible cowboy whose devil-may-cry squeal reminds of the character actor Craig can be. Shake the Bond preconceptions now.
Here’s where it gets a bit dicey, though. With so many prime personas, some characters never blossom – to the point where their inclusion is questioned. Take Katherine Waterston. She barely gets a line in before Jimmy is asking for her number, and then vanishes for a LONG period of time. Sebastian Stan plays this health-obsessed NASCAR driver who clashes with MacFarlane, if only just for one single stadium interaction. I haven’t even mentioned Jack Quaid and Brian Gleeson as tobacco-spittin’ “techies” who know *all* the Twitters (more standouts), Macon Blair, Hilary Swank, Dwight Yoakam’s egotistical prison warden – Soderbergh’s cast is a wealth of down-home riches. It’s just a struggle to payoff *so* many invested parties, and some characters get overlooked.
Now, we have to discuss the Logan family curse. Why? Because certain audiences will find this running theme to be “cheap.” For all their lives, the Logans eat shit luck worse than a cold dice thrower. Jimmy’s bum leg, Clyde’s stumpy arm, Great Grandpappy’s unfortunate whatsoever – but Jimmy’s heist is their shining redemption. Everything seems to come up Logan whenever it shouldn’t. Soderbergh knows *exactly* this, which is where the Burn After Reading comparison injects inconsequential overtones.
Why don’t the guards question Jimmy when he’s wandering restricted tunnels? How does the old-lady-distracts-patrolmen bit work as Mellie tops 90mph in a flashy ride? Little hits like this make us think “goddamn, the bad juju dissipated!” Let me repeat – THIS IS INTENTIONAL. And if you pay attention closely, Clyde’s blunt cynicism is woven into just about everyone’s appropriate disbelief.
We’ve seen flashy, suited criminals swipe paydays with sophisticated appeal. Your Jason Statham vault breakers, dressed to the nines and uncompromisingly tactical. Logan Lucky is anything but, as plaid-printed cowboys snatch one for the little guy. A free-wheelin’, double-dealin’ heist flick that burns rubber and bucks the norm. How anyone can transition a prison riot into the greatest Game Of Thrones long-form joke defies cinematic structure, and yet, the back-and-forth inmate debate fits so perfectly into this red, white and boomin’ blast. Take a victory lap Steven Soderbergh and Rebecca Blunt, because this puppy goes off with a BANG! A Joe Bang, that is.
Logan Lucky is one country-fried hootenanny of a heist thriller that goes off with a (Joe) Bang.