It’s “Ocean’s Eleven” meets “Joe Dirt” in Soderbergh’s new heist flick.
The Logan boys aren’t known for their looks. They aren’t known for their smarts. And they certainly aren’t known for their luck. But are those really reasons to keep one from attempting to rob one of the most popular sporting events on their biggest day of the year?
Meet Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) — local high school football hero and good old boy who had his career cut short due to a knee injury. Handsome, caring, but a little absentminded, Jimmy juggles to be a good and present father along with making money to provide for his daughter, Sadie (Farrah Mackenzie). Sometimes the latter prevents the former. But even through his disappointments, Jimmy’s character and honesty is never in question. He isn’t looking for handouts, but he’s tired of getting the shaft.
After Jimmy’s ex-wife, Bobby Jo (Katie Holmes), mentions that she plans to move across state lines to live near her current husband’s newest dealership, Jimmy will need a major cash infusion to remain in touch. Fortunately, Jimmy isn’t without options. The construction crew he was working with was hired to fix the sinking foundation of NASCAR’s Charlotte Motor Speedway, unveiling a secret vault beneath the track that gets filled with cash from ticket/merchandise/food/etc. sales.
Jimmy’s brother Clyde (Adam Driver), a slow-talking, sharp-witted, one-handed war veteran now tending bar, frets about the Logan curse but signs on as a matter of blood loyalty (and “cauliflower”). Sister Mellie (Riley Keough), a hairdresser with a better command of back-road routes than Google Maps, joins, too, because that’s what a good Logan does for the family.
The same kinship binds the Bang brothers, co-conspirators in this backwater caper. Led by Joe Bang (Daniel Craig), a convicted felon with a knack for improvised explosions (not bombs), with the assistance of Joe’s two ne’er-do-well brothers.
Tatum and Driver deliver great performances and play off each other exceptionally as two brothers who love one another despite their differences and sometimes conflicting personalities. The film wisely gives them both a lot of sympathy and flaws so that the audience never turns against them, and despite what they’re doing being completely illegal, you’ll quickly find yourself rooting for them.
Daniel Craig is the other standout player in this film. Hearing him deliver a West Virginian accent is really worth the price of admission alone. And if the accent isn’t enough, hearing Craig’s monologue about the science behind adding bleach to a plastic bag filled with Gummy Bears to create an explosion is something audiences didn’t know they needed.
While the accents disarm audiences into thinking these lower-class folks are buffoons, it’s quite the contrary. In fact, many authority or upper-class figures like police officers, a prison warden, a local socialite and speedway officials are the butt of jokes over and over again, making the “rednecks” the true heroes of the film, despite their misdeeds.
Ultimately, though, the slightly wobbly (pun intended) pace and structure in the latter part of the film, and the occasional missed opportunity with some characters, are only minor flaws in a bigger picture. This is a film that isn’t as focused on the plot as it is the characters. Frequent dialogues aren’t intrinsic or necessary for plot development but are purely for the brilliant character development. It’s this emphasis that makes “Logan Lucky” the joy it is and more than just another clever heist film.
Soderbergh brings the infectious warmth of the Deep South to the silver screen, employing many strategies that worked brilliantly for his “Ocean’s” trilogy, including an overwhelmingly star-studded cast, enviable chemistry, witty humor and a fast-paced plot. ♦