Lots To Like In ‘Logan Lucky’ (Movie Review)

There was honestly never much of a chance I wasn’t going to enjoy another ensemble heist comedy from director Steven Soderbergh. Logan Lucky is the hillbilly cousin of Soderbergh’s Ocean film series (reminder: Ocean’s 12 is underrated), and it’s just as fun. And of course, only Soderbergh, who retired due to resentment towards the Hollywood studio system, would come back in a way that hardly suggests he’s not having a blast making movies with big name stars again. That said, Logan Lucky tries its best to show off just how unglamorous it is compared to the glitz of his fancier heist trilogy.

Channing Tatum, one of the many reliable Soderbergh regulars, stars as Jimmy Logan. For various reasons, he has put together a plan to rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina. To help him, he enlists his one-armed-handed brother Clyde (Adam Driver), their fast drivin’ sister Mellie (Riley Keough), safe crackin’ expert Joe Bang (Daniel Craig) and Joe’s dimwitted/reborn brothers Sam and Fish (Brian Gleeson and Jack Quaid).

The scheme is complicated, requires expert timing and rides the line of believability, yet none of that matters. The script by newcomer Rebecca Blunt (possibly a pseudonym for Soderbergh’s wife, Jules Asner) and Soderbergh’s skilled direction allow for a film that feels so incredibly relaxed that an opening scene involving Jimmy and his daughter (Farrah Mackenzie) seems as natural as any moment with Clooney and Pitt hanging out together. It’s not that the heist aspect feels shoved aside in favor of the cast members goofing around, but one can’t help but appreciate the low-key presentation of a film not designed to be as high-tech as ones involving elaborate casino robberies in Las Vegas.

There is a great structure here, which allows for introductions, planning and the heist, followed by an extended epilogue that does well to round it all out. During all this time, Soderbergh matches his skills for depicting process with this immensely likable cast. And what better way to have this all gel together than to have another funky and soulful score from David Holmes. It also speaks very well of the film to see how it treats its setting.

I couldn’t help but think of the Coen Brothers while watching this movie, as Logan Lucky does afford actors a chance to use accents and present themselves in a way that’s easy to laugh at. What the Coens do and what Soderbergh does here is find a way to make the humor work, while throwing us in a scenario that could be inherently funny to particular audiences. The difference may lie in how these characters are treated, as there does tend to be a mean streak in films from the Coens that not all are on board with. Logan Lucky doesn’t have a mean bone in its body. Aside from an obnoxious character played by Seth MacFarlane, this is a film that has a lot of respect for everyone involved, along with the institution of NASCAR, which plays a huge role in the movie.

If anything, this movie has a wider scope than it needs, given all the comedic performers and character actors utilized, but it’s hard to say this film needs less of the joy that comes from the interactions we see here. Tatum provides the film’s backbone, with an assured confidence that helps him guide the plot. Driver finds all the right notes to play as a disabled veteran/bartender looking to help his brother. Craig is having a blast in a role that lets him smile and cut loose for a change. Keough fits right in as well, playing the fun dialogue off the others as one should. There are others with great moments in this film as well, but I’m happier to hold off on mentioning them because their presence is only aided by their sudden arrival.

As a filmmaker with something to say, Soderbergh finds himself holding back from investing more in the film’s themes. Sebastian Stan plays a NASCAR racer with a new lease on life that seems to be openly explaining the state of mind Soderbergh found himself in. However, that level of self-awareness is so far down the latter that it’s as if the character was inserted only for people in my position to ruminate over, in case deeper meaning was needed. Given Soderbergh’s penchant for toying with audience members that pride themselves on reading into meta-commentary, I’m not surprised to see it here.

Logan Lucky is just a delight. It’s the kind of film that’s so comfortable in what it is that I can’t help but hope Soderbergh will at the very least keep making frivolous ventures like this one if it means getting so much enjoyment out of a simple Appalachian adventure. Logan Lucky is the kind of film that pokes you in the ribs by celebrating its quirky characters but also has you feeling like you wouldn’t mind sharing some ribs with this crew, because of how likable the whole shebang is.

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