Steven Soderbergh returns to filmmaking – and the heist movie in particular – with the breezy and entertaining Logan Lucky, which ends up pulling the rug out from beneath viewers’ feet, not due to a plot twist – although there are a few of those – but rather the way in which the audience comes to view the characters.
The motley crew of individuals who make up the story of Logan Lucky, of which much is set in my home state of West Virginia, at first give off the impression of the type of down-on-their-luck nitwits that might pop up in a Coen Brothers movie, but by the end of the picture, well, maybe not so much. There’s probably a good 20 minutes remaining in the film after the heist takes place and this time is used to deconstruct what we’ve seen and believed to have seen.
As the picture opens, Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) is a salt of the earth former coal miner whose life is a string of regrets. He was once pegged as a football star, but an injury to his leg – that still causes him to limp – halted all that. Jimmy is fired from his job due to his disability and he has a young daughter with an estranged wife (Katie Holmes), who is married to a rich moron. Jimmy’s brother, Clyde (Adam Driver), is a bartender who lost part of an arm while serving in the military overseas. The brothers also have a younger sister (Riley Keough) who is a hairdresser.
One day prior to his being laid off, Jimmy – who commutes to work in Charlotte – notices a series of tubes in the mines where he works and realizes that they are used to transport money from the NASCAR stadium above ground. He comes up with a scheme to steal a large chunk of money from the tubes and enlists his brother, sister and a convict named Joe Bang (a very funny Daniel Craig) as well as Joe’s two numbskull brothers, whose decision making process on whether to join the scheme resulted in one of the year’s biggest laughs. But first, Clyde gets himself thrown into prison in order to bust Joe out for the job.
Although Logan Lucky is a heist movie and an engrossing one at that, it’s also a movie about a community and the pluck of its individual members. And while the film mostly operates as an often very funny comedic caper, it also has heart, which is best exemplified during a sequence that could have turned maudlin, but doesn’t, involving a school pageant and Jimmy’s young daughter.
The movie is loaded with talent and, arguably, a few of the characters aren’t fleshed out as well as, perhaps, they could have been – I’m thinking Keough’s character, Katherine Waterston’s love interest for Jimmy and Hilary Swank’s FBI agent. Then again, several of the other bit parts are particularly successful, such as Seth MacFarlane’s asshole NASCAR driver.
Logan Lucky marks the return to the big screen of one of American film’s most adventurous directors. It may not be an artistic statement in the realm of Traffic or Sex, Lies and Videotape, but it’s a very well made and enjoyable crime picture – and Soderbergh had already proven himself one of the masters of the genre with Out of Sight – and one that I’d highly recommend.