You could argue that Steven Soderbergh is the architect of the modern heist film. Look no further than his hit movie “Ocean’s Eleven”. In that 2001 remake Soderbergh pretty much wrote his own set of rules for a heist flick and would follow them through two sequels. Now years later he returns with “Logan Lucky”, a working class version of the “Ocean’s” formula, less focused on being cool and more on straight southern-fried humor.
Channing Tatum (an actor I have steadily warmed up to) plays Jimmy Logan, a down-on-his-luck blue collar construction worker who loses his job at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Soon after, Jimmy learns that his ex-wife Bobbie Jo (Katie Holmes) and her slug of a husband Moody (played with just the right amount of macho slime by David Denman) plan to move to Lynchburg making it harder for Jimmy to see his daughter Sadie (Farrah Mackenzie).
Tatum’s performance is funny in a number of ways. One is in how he reacts to all of his bad luck (referenced several times in the film as the ‘Logan Hex’). He takes everything in stride, never getting worked up. But he doesn’t sit around and take it. You could say he’s a man of action. So needing money in order to stay closer to Sadie, Jimmy concocts an elaborate plan to rob the speedway. But he’s going to need a crew.
First he recruits his brother Clyde (Adam Driver), an Iraq war veteran and bartender with a prosthetic hand, and his hairdresser sister Mellie (Riley Keough). Needing someone experienced with vaults they contact the currently in-car-cer-ated Joe Bang. He’s played by Daniel Craig channeling something far different than his dapper James Bond persona. Joe’s two numbskull brothers (Brian Gleeson and Jack Quaid) join in to fill out the wacky team.
Several other names round off the cast – Sebastian Stan, Dwight Yoakam, Katherine Waterston. And then there are a couple who don’t quite fit. Seth MacFarlane plays a scumbag NASCAR team owner with a bad British accent and an even worse wig. Not sure what he’s going for but it doesn’t work. And then there is Hillary Swank as a not so hot on the trail FBI agent. Swank’s performance is hard to interpret and feels out of tune with the rest of the film. Thankfully both are smaller roles and are easy to look past, but they do stand out.
This zany bunch of country folk is a far cry from Danny Ocean’s good-looking and snazzy dressed band of burglars. That’s part of the fun. In many ways Soderbergh is spoofing his own “Ocean’s” trilogy and has a lot of fun doing it. You can’t help but notice similarities in the two story structures, but “Logan Lucky” adds its own unique twist and is by far the broader comedy.
Out of the blue newcomer Rebecca Blunt is credited with the screenplay but there is a catch. Many say Rebecca Blunt doesn’t exist. No one can seem to find her. Some believe it’s a pseudonym for Soderbergh himself. Others have speculated that Soderbergh’s wife, former E! personality Jules Asner, is the real screenwriter. This weird little mystery surrounding Rebecca Blunt seems only fitting for such weird little movie. Whoever wrote it deserves some attention for dishing out a fun madcap caper with big personalities and even bigger laughs. Toss in that Soderbergh flavor and an all-in cast and you have one of last year’s funniest movies.
VERDICT – 4 STARS