“LOGAN LUCKY” HITS THE JACKPOT OF A WACKY HEIST CAPER
A Film Review by Tim Riley
LOGAN LUCKY (Rated PG-13) Just one of the many pleasures of director Steven Soderbergh’s heist caper “Logan Lucky” is seeing Daniel Craig in the role of a hillbilly safecracker aptly-named Joe Bang, playing very much against his character of the suave secret agent James Bond. For his part, the eccentric Bang, sporting a bleached-blonde buzz cut and neck tattoos and speaking with a Southern twang, would be the perfect demolition expert to crack the vault underneath the Charlotte Motor Speedway on the day of the big NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 race.
West Virginia coal miner Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum), recently dismissed from his job when his pre-existing medical condition of a bum leg becomes evident, had been digging the tunnels below the racetrack and figured out how to stage a heist during the biggest payday. Jimmy convinces his reluctant one-armed brother Clyde (Adam Driver), an Iraq War vet now tending bar at a local dive, and his car-obsessed hairdresser sister Mellie (Riley Keough), to join his plan for a daring heist at the Speedway in neighboring North Carolina.
The Logan family is perpetually down-on-their-luck, and though Jimmy wants to be a family man, his ex-wife Bobbie Jo (Katie Holmes) has sole custody of the daughter he loves. The chance for a big score might make it easier for him to spend more time on family matters. The Logans need outside help to pull off the complex robbery, and this is where Joe Bang and his seemingly dim-witted, country boy siblings, Sam and Fish (Brian Gleeson and Jack Quaid), come into the picture.
The catch is that Bang is currently incarcerated, so Jimmy and Clyde hatch a plan to get him out just long enough to blow the racetrack vault and sneak him back into jail before the warden (Dwight Yoakum) notices he’s missing. The scheme of freeing Bang for his services involves the staging of a prison riot where the inmates demand the last two “Game of Thrones” books by George RR Martin which have yet to be published. As if it is not funny enough that the prisoners would be worked up over fiction books, Yoakum’s Warden Burns is amusing for his inept leadership and feeble attempts to squelch any public notice of the prison system’s failures. Often the small details in Soderbergh’s work are telling pieces to the overall construct of the film’s narrative, such that it is best to pay close attention along the way lest you miss some juicy morsels.
Having worked underground at the Charlotte racetrack, Jimmy acquired a lot of knowledge about the operation of cash transfers through pneumatic tubes into the vault, and none of his superiors had any concern that this blue-collar worker would be smart enough to use this information.
At first, no one else had much regard for Jimmy’s innate criminal abilities, considering that he was a working stiff devoted to his young daughter Sadie (Farrah Mackenzie) and his ambition seemingly did not extend far beyond his beloved West Virginia roots. “Logan Lucky” benefits from a great cast of oddball characters. If there is a villain to this piece, it has to be Seth MacFarlane’s arrogant British race team owner Max Chilblain, who insists on promoting his line of energy drinks that his driver (Sebastian Stan) abhors.
One of the many interesting facets of “Logan Lucky” is that the principal characters of Jimmy and Clyde Logan are two brothers that might look dumb to outsiders but their staging of the heist proves that they are resourceful and ingenious, maybe even cunning, as criminal masterminds. But then, there is FBI agent Sarah Grayson (Hilary Swank), snooping around and suspicious of everyone, trying to piece together the puzzle of the inventive heist when the other authorities have given up on solving the mystery.
Just when it seems the Logan crew has pulled off the most incredible robbery in North Carolina history, the question is whether the Logan brothers are truly unlucky in the face of a relentless FBI agent unwilling to give up the investigation. As a director, Steven Sodenbergh has the right touch for heist movies, as he proved with “Ocean’s Eleven” and its two sequels. You can also count his directing of “Out of Sight” and “Haywire” as works in the same wheelhouse.
One could say that “Logan Lucky” is the blue-collar version of the “Ocean’s” trilogy and not be far off the mark. To underscore the point, one character in the film dubs the heist gang with the moniker of “Ocean’s 7-Eleven.” Filled with quirky humor and offbeat characters, “Logan Lucky” works well as a heist film, one that doesn’t have any pretense to be anything other than entertaining. For late summer fun, you won’t feel robbed for the price of a movie ticket.