“You Logan’s must be as simple-minded as people say.”
It makes sense that I haven’t come across another film quite like Logan Lucky since I first saw Ocean’s 11. That film, the magnum opus from the recently unretired Steven Soderbergh, is rightfully considered one of the most rewatchable movies ever made. It just exudes this sort of suave prom king kind of cool, pairing together the perfect mix of enough niceties and likability and complexity, and Logan Lucky achieves the same marks through more humble methods. What’s most impressive about this film is not that it is so capable and compelling and funny – we can expect such attributes because Soderbergh is a masterful filmmaker – but that it’s able to convincingly mask its obvious skill in a story world full of seemingly simple-minded individuals. I’m not sure I’ll have more fun with a movie in 2017 than I did with Logan Lucky. This here is a joyous triumph that laughs in the face of J.D. Vance’s investigative book Hillbilly Elegy while also inspecting it.
The Logan’s live under a cursed cloud. Jimmy (Channing Tatum) ruled over his West Virginia high school as the big shot football star and moved on to LSU before blowing out his knee. Now he hobbles about, works construction, fights with his well-to-do Ex (Katie Holmes) over time with his pageant going daughter (Farrah Mackenzie). Clyde Logan (Adam Driver) cracks open beers and mixes drinks at the appropriately named “Duck Tape” bar. His left arm is a prosthetic from the elbow down, lost to a roadside bomb just as he was leaving his deployment. As it is in most brotherly relationships, Clyde tends to do as the cash-strapped and recently unemployed Jimmy says, which leads them both to a unanimous decision: rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway in the light of day.
The beautician and fast-driving little Logan sister Mellie (Riley Keough) eventually becomes a cog in this rusted out machine of a game-plan. Jimmy’s 10 commandments for a true redneck heist can be seen on his fridge, and more than one accounts for when shit will inevitably happen. As such, Jimmy ducks around and rolls with the punches, Clyde confronts them with a military mindset, and Mellie deals with the messed up aftermath. Logan Lucky swings back and forth on these low-hanging limbs of a family tree, developing parts here and leaving us guessing elsewhere, planting countless seeds in the plot which are harvested with the precision and the skill of a career farmer. The soil is rich with this one, the crops rooted in a Southern reality, the harvest rich and abundant.
As a country fried riff on the classic heist film – it exits somewhere between Wes Anderson’s Bottle Rocket, The Dukes of Hazard, and Soderbergh’s own Ocean’s trilogy – Logan Lucky is less an antithesis of its genre categorization and more of a carefully and calculated ode to the lyrics of John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” Soderbergh approaches this story by the books, as did Denver in recounting and remembering a sprawling West Virginian landscape. The frameworks and the foundation are dependably solid. From there though, the filmmaker injects an overdose of characterization likened to the band Fleet Foxes’ song “Blue Ride Mountains,” ushering in more cautious and descriptive adjectives of an unmapped countryside. That might sound crass and may be upsetting to those affected by addiction, but it still wholly applies to this film, and in no greater aspect is it given life than Daniel Craig’s truly intoxicating and sublime performance as the “in-car-sir-rate-ed” Joe Bang. Craig will be remembered as one of the best to ever play James Bond; he’s even better as a bleach blonde vault cracker.
The film’s best close-up shots find their way to Craig’s face; every pore and wrinkle and smooth-shaved crease can almost be gleaned with your eyes. I think this is on purpose. Soderbergh, fresh out of retirement and donning his previously hung up cleats, seems to be examining his own self-reflection, identifying with the hysterics and maniacal manner of Joe while pouring over and carefully manipulating a brew of a story which, by now, he’s crafted to absolute perfection. Craig coolly plays Joe Bang as an explosives expert, and in the same breath, Soderbergh directs with a similar approach, offering up a genuinely exciting variation on a picture typically bound to repetition. Logan Lucky might unfold with a familiar rhythm, but it’s also its own unforgettable backwoods beast. It’s entertaining as hell, funny as all get out, and hand dips its sweet-hearted center into the cultural zeitgeist. And still it’s skillful enough to dazzle us with sprinkles and dish out a cherry on top. Movies don’t come much better than this.
“My life of crime is over.”
Rating: 4.5 out of 5