The heist genre can be quite tricky to pull off now these days. While most moviegoers themselves fantasize of stealing a large sum of cash in the hopes of a rags-to-riches storybook ending, audiences have seen this story played out dozens upon dozens of times. The only director who seemed to get it right two out of the three times he directed such a film was Steven Soderbergh, who announced his retirement three years ago much to the dismay of film buffs around the globe. However, Soderbergh has ended his retirement and returned to the all-too-familiar heist film genre with his latest project, Logan Lucky.
Logan Lucky centers on Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum), a would be NFL quarterback had he not blown out his knee at LSU, thus continuing a family curse that also extends to his his one-handed Iraq veteran brother, Clyde Logan (Adam Driver). After Jimmy is fired from his construction job, he and Clyde devise an elaborate plan to rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway with the help of their sister Mellie Logan (Riley Keough) and incarcerated explosives expert Joe Bang (Daniel Craig).
Logan Lucky rests upon the shoulders of its performers, and everyone brings their A-game to the picture. Channing Tatum continues to prove why he is one of the most sought after A-listers in Hollywood today, bringing to life a smarter-than-you-think character who is doing this just to remain closer to his daughter. Adam Driver also gives a great performance as the down and out younger brother, and it’s roles such as these that allow Driver to expertly portray his awkwardness to make his character seem ever-so appealing. The rest of the ensemble also performs well in the film, particularly Katie Holmes, whose portrayal of Jimmy’s ex-wife makes you wish you had the gumption to pick-up a Southern belle like her. Hilary Swank also makes a welcome return to the mainstream in the third act of the film as a hard-nosed FBI investigator, and it’s great to see a talent like her back where she belongs.
However, it’s Daniel Craig’s Joe Bang who steals the show. Craig has of course always had the reputation of a suave actor due to his excellent turn as James Bond, but he immerses himself so much into his red-neck character you understand why Steven Soderbergh chooses to bill him as “and introducing Daniel Craig as Joe Bang”. It’s as if he has actually discovered a new bona fide character actor out there, and there’s no doubt Craig should be up for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar come next March. Soderbergh also returns with his slick and stylish direction that brings life to the heist. Soderbergh is also able to get the most out his performers, continuing his winning streak of being able to work with and properly direct actors, something that seems to come at a premium these days with most directors.
What helps Logan Lucky rise above its otherwise generic plot is the setting and its willingness to dive into it. These are poor, simple folk we’re following in the film, and there’s something refreshing about having poorer people in the South be the heroes we root for instead of the pretty and attractive people we see in most other heist films. The film’s Southern charm made the characters rather charming and likeable, particularly when you realize that although these characters aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed, they are in fact smarter than you think and are counting on you buying into that stereotype so that they can set out what they want to accomplish. Logan Lucky is the anti- Ocean’s 11. It’s not glitzy and glamorous, it’s grimy and rednecky. As one of the extras in the film says, it’s Ocean’s 7-Eleven.
If there’s anything to gripe about regarding the film, it’s that its not as hilarious as it’s been marketed. The marketing campaign would have you believe it’s an all-out hillbilly robbery romp, but it’s more a heist film with quirky characters and a surprisingly good amount of heart. One of the performers that tries to play it up for laughs is Seth McFarlane, who never quite jells in his NASCAR sponsor role to be memorable and or effective in the film.
Overall, Logan Lucky is one of those rare late-summer releases that’s actually a good movie. It’s the kind of film Burt Reynolds would have excelled in and made a boat-load of money back in the 1960s and 1970s. With exceptional performances, great direction, and willingness to get down and dirty, Logan Lucky marks a welcome return for legendary director Steven Soderbergh and is more than worth one last trip to the theater before Labor Day.
Rating: 3/4 Stars. Pay Full Price.
Logan Lucky stars Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Daniel Craig, Riley Keough, Katie Holmes, Seth McFarlane, Katherine Waterson, Dwight Yoakam, Brian Gleeson, Jack Quaid, and Hilary Swank. It is in theaters Friday, August 18th.