Director Steven Soderbergh is back with this witty heist comedy featuring an all-star cast.
RATING: ★★★ (out of four stars)
At the end of Logan Lucky, the news is playing in the background of a scene. A reporter is interviewing folks about the robbery of the Charlotte Motor Speedway. One of these folks refers to the incident as “Ocean’s 7/11” because they believe a gang of locals committed the crime. That description is a sweet nod to Director Steven Soderbergh’s previous trilogy and a spot-on description of his latest offering that delivers a damn good time at the track.
Soderbergh ditches the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas for the hills of West Virginia with the likes of Channing Tatum and Adam Driver, playing the Logan Brothers. Tatum’s Jimmy Logan has just been let go from his construction job at the track repairing sinkholes due to “liability reasons involving insurance.” Aiming to find a new source of income, Jimmy ropes his brother, Clyde, and sister, Mellie, played by a sassy Riley Keough, and Joe Bang, played by an unrecognizable Daniel Craig, into a little robbery action.
Nailing the almost musical cadence of the accent, Tatum and Driver are a pleasure to watch as they push each other’s buttons, but also stick up for the other. We get a wonderful scene of this playing out when Seth McFarlane’s loudmouth soda-sponsor shows up at Clyde’s (Driver) bar making fun of his prosthetic arm, and Jimmy tells him to apologize, defending his brother’s dignity. It’s this loyalty that leads to Clyde assisting Jimmy with a simple heist that he has planned out to the ‘t’ with miniatures and a classic robbery checklist. Keough’s Mellie is the most dependable of the Logan siblings; stepping up to take Jimmy’s daughter to her recital practice, when he forgets, and joining the heist crew with zero hesitation, from painting roaches to stealing a car.
This leads us to the absolute star of the film, Joe Bang. Bleached-blonde hair and tattoos from his neck to his knuckles, Daniel Craig swaggers into this film like a hillbilly rockstar. The brothers need Bang’s explosive expertise for the job, so they’ve hatched an escape plan to get him out. Bang’s requests his dimwitted nephews Fish and Sam join the crew. In what could have been small and forgettable characters, Fish and Sam’s antics provide some of the biggest laughs. They refuse to join the crew without a moral reason to steal from the Speedway, leading an exasperated Jimmy and Clyde to tell them the manager at the local mart felt their sister up and this would be getting back at the owners, who are sponsoring the race. Of course, Fish and Sam immediately agree to the job. Bang requires his supplies from the “Bear in the Woods,” so the boys head out there to be handed a bag of supplies from a man in a bear costume with no explanation. Part of the prison escape plan involves the inmates rioting to distract the warden and guards, which leads to a hilarious list of demands including the latest Game of Thrones book, which unfortunately keeps getting pushed back due to George R.R. Martin’s difficult schedule. It’s these kind of small little side pieces involving colorful characters and storytelling that could have been handled much more by the book, but instead are given their own little flavor, that continuously add up in Logan Lucky, making it feel like a perfect slice of genre filmmaking.
Hilary Swank surprises as the tough, no-nonsense Special Agent assigned to investigate the robbery at the Speedway. Coming in for only the last 10 minutes or so, she provides an effective wrap-up to case going through all the evidence, but finds no clear connection between any of the Logans and Bangs, beyond prison visits. She’s forced to drop the case by the Speedway, who’s happy to have their insurance payout. Not one to back away from the truth though, we find her at Clyde’s bar, where Jimmy, Mellie, Joe, Fish, Sam, and Clyde share a celebratory shot. When Clyde asks if she’s sticking around town, she coyly responds, “I hope to,” as the camera pans around the room showing us the players on the stage. I for one would like to stick around too, Mrs. Swank.