Heist Comedy ‘Logan Lucky’ Brightens The Doldrums

‘I’ On Culture

New movie Logan Lucky is a surprise treat for the late summer. Director Steven Soderbergh knows how to do a heist film. He has Oceans 11 and Oceans 12 to his credit. This film is different. No fancy Vegas hotels or mafia bad guys, and no big-shot thieves. The stars of this film are ordinary folk down on their luck.

Some critics have called the film Oceans 7-11. That does not detract from its enjoyment level.

Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) is a construction roughneck working under the Charlotte racetrack when he is canned because of an old football injury that has caused, in the minds of the company’s big shots, an insurance issue. That creates complications when dealing with ex-wife Bobbie Jo (Katie Holmes) and his adorable daughter Sadie (Farrah Mackenzie). Out of frustration, he creates a set of guidelines to carry out a “perfect crime” at the track.

He turns to his family, of course. Brother Clyde (Adam Driver) is a bartender at the local bar, a man who lost his left hand from an IED in Iraq. Sister Mellie (Riley Keough), a hairdresser, seems to have most of the brains in the family. Jimmy knows the track really well; he was working there for months.

All the family really needs is an expert bomber. They know one. Unfortunately, Joe Bang (Daniel Craig) is incarcerated, as he reminds them on visiting day. However, Jimmy has figured everything out. Bang will get out for a few hours and then return.

Things start to work out. There is a prison riot, easily the funniest hostage-holding situation ever. The convicts demand the last two books of George Martin’s Game of Throne series (which have not been published yet) and the harried, corrupt warden Burns (Dwight Yoakam) tries to reason with them to prevent any possible later investigations.

There are twists and turns along the way. The actual theft process seems reasonable, assuming things actually work the way they are shown and the security people are as dumb as they seem in the movie. Actually, the lack of real problems in doing the theft is a major weakness. The audience waits for the shoe to drop, to have some sort of major problem, and it doesn’t happen.

But there are so many byways that who notices? Keough steals every scene she’s in. While the crime is going on, she seems everywhere at once. She’s driving like a maniac between several sites and, in the meantime, she’s preparing Sadie for a little girl’s beauty pageant. In the middle of the whole thing, Soderbergh takes time off from the crime to show the competition. And it works.

What holds things together, however, is the excellent cast. Although Tatum is really the straight man, his decency (even while masterminding the heist) shines through. Driver is even better; his dour demeanor provides a great counterpoint to some of the over-the-top performances.

Craig is the revelation. He is hardly James Bond here. His accent and mannerisms are pure country, and Joe Bang is a hoot. He manages to use a few packages of Gummi Bears as the fuel for an explosive “device” (definitely not a bomb, as he instructs the Logan boys).

Yoakam is great as the harried warden, and Mackenzie is really good as the daughter. She manages, somehow, in a film where she is a pageant participant (with a not-really-good singing voice) to come across as a real, very nice kid. The only exception is Seth MacFarlane in a terrible wig and a ridiculous accent as a sort of bad guy.

Baby Driver, the far better summer heist movie, moved to a fast urban soundtrack beat. We were on the edge of our seats most of the time. Here the main music is John Denver, nice and comfortable. And that describes the movie really well. We are comfortable; we know who the good guys are, even if they are breaking the law and robbing people who, unlike in similar films, are not even evil.

But we can relax and enjoy a nice, comfortable ride. At this time of the summer, most of the films are remainders. We are entering the dead zone time of the movie year. This film, though, will give you a nice couple of hours. It won’t thrill you, but you will enjoy it.