Logan Lucky: Join the crew for Soderbergh's latest caper

Like an ex-con coming back for one last job, director Steven Soderbergh (Erin Brockovich, Magic Mike) has returned from a brief retirement to undertake yet another heist movie, Logan Lucky. Through his prolific career he’s tackled everything from killer viruses (Contagion) to Liberace (Behind the Candelabra), but one thing really seems to be his passion: the crime caper.
The story concerns two down on their luck brothers who hatch a plan to rob the vault under the Charlotte Motor Speedway track during one of the biggest races of the year. Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) is a divorced dad who works a digger in the tunnels under the raceway, but gets laid off because a prior injury makes him an insurance liability. Sad sack Clyde (Adam Driver) is a former Iraq vet who lost his arm in action and now tends bar in a dreary joint called “Duck Tape”. Their family has had a long history of bad luck, but Jimmy has got a scheme to put it all right and make them rich. There’s one snag – the only man capable of cracking the vault, Joe Bang (Daniel Craig), is stuck in prison. So before they rob the vault, they need to break him out of jail…
In interviews Soderbergh has talked about Logan Lucky being an inversion of Ocean’s Eleven, in that the people involved here aren’t slick and sexy like George Clooney & Co, nor do they have any money or tech. However, while these redneck robbers have bad hair and bad fashion sense, it plays out in a similar way to the Ocean’s movies – we get to be part of the gang for a couple of hours, watch an ingenious scheme unfold, while all the time Soderbergh withholds a few key details to keep us guessing until the end.

Once again Soderbergh makes it very easy for us to identify with the criminals (see also: The Limey, Out of Sight) and root for their cause. It helps when you’ve got Tatum and Driver playing to their strengths – they both ace their roles in a film where some of the supporting characters stray dangerously close to caricature.
Then there’s Daniel Craig. He’s been playing James Bond for a decade now, and his other roles during that time have hardly been anything special. There’s a hint of weariness to his performance in Spectre that I don’t think was an acting choice – he just seems a bit bored of being 007. As Joe Bang, with his peroxide blonde hair, ugly tattoos and broad Southern accent, Craig’s having an absolute blast. Sure, it’s stunt casting – but who cares when Craig is clearly having such a great time with a role? Joe’s a cartoonish and pretty two dimensional character, but the movie lights up every time he’s on screen.

Logan Lucky is such a breezy, enjoyable caper that it’s very easy to forgive the fundamental problems with the key ingredient – the heist itself. And there are some big problems. Ocean’s Eleven was brilliant at keeping you up to speed with the plan while also keeping you in the dark about how they’d ultimately pull it off. The pieces don’t click together quite so nicely here, and large chunks of the Logan brother’s convoluted plan depend on factors that are completely out of their control. By the time we reach Soderbergh’s signature rewind to show the parts of the plot he’s been keeping from us, I was scratching my head thinking: wait a minute, I’m not sure this all adds up. Another viewing might be required to see if everything checks out – but if you need to watch a film a second time to see if it makes sense, there’s problems with the storytelling.
That said, it feels pretty churlish to criticize a film too much when it is clearly made with the absolute best intentions in mind – to entertain the hell out of the audience for a couple of hours. On purely those terms, Logan Lucky is a resounding success. Glad to have you back, Mr Soderbergh!


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