One needn't search too hard for a neat turn of phrase to quickly explain "Logan Lucky," the latest from director Steven Soderbergh ("Ocean's Eleven"). Clever, pseudonymous screenwriter "Rebecca Blunt" (rumor has it that Mr. Soderbergh himself penned the script) helpfully places a pithy, possibly self-referential description of this high-concept, southern-fried heist flick in the mouth of a third-act newscaster who's reporting on the aftermath of the daring daytime robbery at North Carolina's Charlotte Speedway: "They're referring to it as ‘Ocean's 7-11'." There it is. You can't do any better than that.
Take a deep breath, because "Logan" is a deceptively intricate story with a plethora of elements that fit together just so. Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum, "The Hateful Eight") is a former miner who's part of a crew shoring up sinkholes under NASCAR's premier speedway. Due to a long-ago leg injury that's suddenly made him an "insurance liability" he's let go one day, but not before he gets a peek at how money moves on busy race days from trackside concession stands to an underground storage room via a series of pneumatic tubes. Add his bitterness at being fired to his sudden need for funds to fight a custody battle with ex-wife Bobbie Jo (Katie Holmes, "All We Had") over daughter Sadie (Farrah Mackenzie), and soon Jimmy's working on a plan to use the underground repair tunnels to rob the speedway.
Jimmy's one-armed bartender brother Clyde (Adam Driver, "Silence") is convinced there's a Logan family curse that will doom this caper to failure, but he signs on to assist nonetheless. Sister Mellie (Riley Keough, "It Comes At Night") pitches in, along with jailed con Joe Bang (James Bond himself, Daniel Craig, almost unrecognizable with a platinum-blond buzzcut and a surprisingly passable southern accent) who has to be busted out of the joint in order for this crazily convoluted plan to work.
Said plan plays out against a pastiche of southern clichés that could offend some, though they're laid on so thick that the net effect is a loving lampoon. You could almost make a game out of counting them: kiddie beauty pageants, ladies strolling around in short skirts and cowboy boots, ATV riders, Charlie Daniels t-shirts, and yes, even a toilet seat horseshoe match.
But "Logan" gets beyond the clichés, starting with a solid performance from Mr. Tatum: his Jimmy is a devoted father and a level-headed thinker who keeps his crew doggedly on track as increasingly mind-boggling obstacles crop up. Mr. Driver plays up his character's brotherly loyalty and trust, whether he's backing Jimmy in a bar fight against blustering British race driver Max Chilblain (Seth MacFarlane, "A Million Ways to Die in the West") or trusting his brother to retrieve the prosthetic hand that's suddenly gumming up the works mid-robbery (it's a long story...). It's also worth noting that Mr. Driver, a native Californian, takes a studied and respectful approach to the southern accent, finding a lovely musicality in Clyde's laid-back drawl.
"Logan Lucky" is a hoot from start to finish, owing primarily to a delightfully clever script that doesn't drop a stitch. Think Mellie's neon nail polish or Joe Bang's penchant for hard-boiled egg snacks are throwaway details? Not so fast. Assume Bobbie Jo's new husband is being needled about driving a sports car with automatic shift as a quick character-establishing gag? Nope. "Logan" sports the kind of script where absolutely nothing is wasted, and seemingly disparate elements fall into place over and over again with an elegant, satisfying "click."
But that elegant craftsmanship never weighs matters down. "Logan" is a rollocking, laugh-out-loud funny take on the very type of heist flick that catapulted Mr. Soderbergh to household-name status last decade, and it's great fun to see the variety of jokes - broad, sly, winking, throw-away - that complement the NASCAR-fast storytelling. This is a smart movie about a seemingly dumb pipe-dream that reaches Rube Goldberg-esque levels of layered sophistication in its execution. Will our heroes drive their dream across the finish line, or will they be left spinning their wheels? You may not see the answer coming, but it's guaranteed you'll be laughing with them...all the way to the bank.
|Movie title||Logan Lucky|
|Summary||Director Steven Soderbergh's latest is a supremely satisfying, elegantly crafted heist flick that's also laugh-out-loud funny.|