Who doesn’t love a great heist movie? There’s something magical about seeing a plan come together Hannibal-style, especially when there’s a load of unexpected twists. Steven Soderbergh is no stranger to this genre of film, and his latest entry, “Logan Lucky”, takes an interesting spin. He puts aside the suave, smooth-talking Danny Ocean and replaces him with a good ol’ country boy from North Carolina. But Jimmy Logan isn’t the only character here with southern roots. His entire troop of hopeful thieves encompass a full range of backwoods personalities. Nearly every character is portrayed by cast members that I never would have predicted had I read the script beforehand. Even though its runtime was a bit long, I thoroughly enjoyed following Jimmy’s convoluted, yet hilarious at larceny. It might be the best one-and-done movie I’ve seen in years.
“Logan Lucky” Plot
Jimmy (Channing Tatum) is let go from him job repairing sink holes underneath the Charlotte Motor Speedway. His handicapped brother, Clyde (Adam Driver), operates a small bar. In true heist movie fashion, Jimmy convinces the initially reluctant Clyde to pull of the plan he’s hatched. They are to rob the speedway using the underground tunnels made by his previous employer. But they can’t succeed on their own. They recruit the help of a cavalcade of characters including an incarcerated explosives expert, a pair of intelligent hillbillies, and even their own sister. They attempt this caper all while staying under the radar of an FBI agent who is hot on their trail.
If this storyline sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the basic skeleton of pretty much every heist film you’ve ever seen. What sets this one apart from the rest is its setting and characters. Jeff Foxworthy once said, “I used to say that when people heard my southern accent, they always wanted to deduct 100 I.Q. points.” It’s hard to argue with that stereotype, but these individuals are far from a bunch of dumb rednecks. Sure, they have the occasional stereotypical moments peppered with southern twang, but they exude a high level of intelligence at the same time. This dichotomy makes for a highly interesting dynamic that gives a possibly overused plot a breath of fresh air.
Close to Jumping the Shark
There’s a certain amount of ridiculousness in just how intricate this job becomes, however. There’s seriously a crazy amount of perfect timing, moronic security guards, and downright luck required to make this happen. It comes very close to teetering on the border of implausibility, but I was having such a great time watching it unfold, I didn’t care. Most of the time, I can see at least where the main characters are heading with their plan. On multiple occasions in Logan Lucky, however, I was baffled right up until the moment when the “a-ha” moment arrives. Imagine the final scene in “Ocean’s Eleven”, but done in smaller, multiple doses throughout the two-hour experience. It’s capped off with a very satisfying twist that left me guessing until the final scenes, which I appreciated a great deal.
There’s quite an ensemble cast in Logan Lucky that I never could have guessed would work, but it does swimmingly. Who knew putting a Larry the Cable Guy fishing hat and a dirty set of blue jeans and t-shirt could transform Channing Tatum into a country bumpkin? He’s the character you’re rooting for, though, and Magic Mike balances the country boy/brains of the operation role expertly. Adam Driver’s Clyde initially irritated the hell out of me. But by the final credits, I believed everyone other role I’ve seen him play was a persona, and in real life he’s an awkward, shell-shocked bartender. Daniel Craig delivered his favorite performance of mine yet with his crazy, yet level-headed (and aptly named) Joe Bang. Even Dwight Yoakam reminded me that he’s just as good in front of the camera as he is behind a guitar and microphone.
Almost every cast member truly made me believe that they were from the south. This unexpected level of commitment to this demographic was incredibly refreshing, and reminded me of my time with friends and family from nearby regions. With that said, I felt a bit let down with Seth MacFarlane’s portrayal of Max, an energy drink sponsor. Not only was he the only character who looked like he was obviously wearing a wig and fake mustache, but his accent felt more fitting as a cartoon character. But the most grating character of all (a cameo I’ll leave out for the surprise) was laughably bad. I’ll die a happy man if I never have to hear that cross-pollination of southern drawl and business-like demeanor ever again. It was close to nails on a chalkboard for me.
You can sense Soderbergh’s direction from the opening scenes of Logan Lucky. His distinct tone is evident in nearly every minute of this film. I rarely appreciate extreme, lingering closeups of characters, but he makes it work here. The comedic timing made me guffaw more than once (especially a random line delivered by Driver). This is a heist film first and a comedy second, but the few moments of hilarity were well worth the theater visit. I was glad to hear a 70’s rock soundtrack instead of one focused on country. I got the impression the filmmakers didn’t want to push too far. The little bit of John Denver was just the right touch to remind the audience where we were.
I’m not quite sure what I expected out of Logan Lucky outside of some against-type acting. But I was genuinely surprised how well this story an cast worked for me. Despite some distracting side plots, I was engaged for the majority of this two-hour adventure. It’s worth a theater visit to see the performances and experience the multiple twists towards the end.
If $10.00 were the full price of admission, I would pay $7.50 to see this film.