Director: Steven Soderbergh
Cast: Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Riley Keough, Daniel Craig, Jack Quaid, Brian Gleeson, Seth MacFarlane, Farrah Mackenzie, Katie Holmes, David Denman, Hilary Swank, Macon Blair, Katherine Waterston, Dwight Yoakam
MPAA Rating: (for language and some crude comments)
Running Time: 1:59
Release Date: 8/18/17
Review by Mark Dujsik | August 17, 2017
After retiring from making movies for a whole four years (Did anyone really think he wouldn't be back?), Steven Soderbergh returns with Logan Lucky, a breezy romp about a makeshift robbery. The premise is that all of the characters are down on their luck, from low-paying or insecure jobs to serving time in prison to just plain, old bad luck. They barely have the means to live their lives, so when it comes to stealing a whole lot of money from a local racetrack, they're going to have to possess plenty of do-it-yourself innovation—much of it on-the-cheap and with a few improvised, as well as "borrowed," tools. I can't say for certain, but this might be the first heist movie to feature cockroaches as a vital part of the robbers' plan.
That detail is notable, if only because it serves as an example of how well Rebecca Blunt's screenplay allows us to follow along with the robbers' process. Sure, a few pieces of the plan are hinted at, only to have their place in the scheme revealed later, but the film doesn't cheat—until, perhaps, the extended denouement, during which we learn just how clever a few these thieves really are. The point is that we can see the basic logic, observe how they make it work by hook or by crook, and bask in the relatively simple means by which they execute a pretty elaborate plan.
This makes the film a slightly more palatable depiction of a big heist than we sometimes get. There's no reliance on imaginary or seemingly impossible-to-get technology. The only things that these folks need are construction tools, a car, some plastic bags, and, in one of the funnier bits, a bag of gummy bears. Nobody here is an expert in showy skills. They know how to build things. They can operate the construction equipment, and one of them is a really fast driver. That, along with some good timing, is all there is to it. There's a certain ordinariness to the plan, which means that the film can breeze over the intricacy of its particulars.
Blunt's screenplay provides believable, recognizable characters, and because of Soderbergh's ability to bring in plenty of talent, just about every new character we meet, in turn, is played by an actor we know, turning in solid work. The leader of the eventual robbers is Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum), a divorced man living in West Virginia, who sees his daughter a day or two week while trying to make ends meet in a construction job. When he was younger, Jimmy might have made it big in football, but a knee injury ended those prospects. It still give him problems, namely an obvious limp, and because he didn't mention that when he applied for his most recent job, he's laid off as a liability risk.
His brother Clyde (Adam Diver) is an Army veteran who lost his hand and forearm in combat. Now he works as a bartender, telling stories of his family's bad luck. The only Logan who doesn't seem to have any such misfortune is their sister Mellie (Riley Keough), a hairdresser who's as stuck in a rut as her brothers.
Jimmy needs money, because his ex-wife Bobbie Jo (Katie Holmes) is about to move across state lines with their daughter Sadie (Farrah Mackenzie) and Bobbie Jo's new husband (played by David Denman). At his now-former job, Jimmy was working to repair sinkholes at a racetrack in Charlotte, North Carolina. He has seen the series of pneumatic tubes that bring the money from vendors to the track's vault, and he's certain that the team of right people could take the track for millions.
The formula here is obvious (Many will recognize it from—among a slew of other such movies—Soderbergh's own, previous movies about a group of thieves pulling off a big job), but it hardly matters. The film itself doesn't seem as concerned with the plot as it does with the details surrounding it.
Blunt and Soderbergh are more amused by the idea of Mellie painting cockroaches with different colors of nail polish than they care about the specifics of how the insects are used in the plan. They revel in watching and listening to these people talk, whether it's how Sadie is ahead of her father in handing him tools to work on an engine or how Jimmy convinces a couple of reformed thieves (played by Brian Gleeson and Jack Quaid), who have since "found the Lord," to the join the crew (It doesn't take much).
The screenplay gives us an explosives expert named—appropriately enough—Joe Bang (Daniel Craig), and then the film stops dead in the middle of the robbery so that he can explain, with quite a bit of exasperation, the science of how three, ordinary items will result in a big bang. Joe, by the way, is in prison, so part of the scheme is to get him out and return him before anyone notices. A prison riot, involving trivial demands from the inmates, is involved. It helps that the warden (played by Dwight Yoakam) is in constant denial that anything bad can happen under his watch.
If anything, there might be a few too many diversions here, especially in the section detailing the aftermath of the robbery (which introduces a couple of characters and a few complications just, apparently, to suggest the possibility of a sequel). It rambles in a way that the rest of Logan Lucky doesn't. That's fine, because the rest of the film is tightly constructed in its plotting, while also being loose enough in its focus to appreciate what clever and relatable characters it possesses.
Copyright © 2017 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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