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Review: "Logan Lucky"

by Chris Feil

Steven Soderbergh’s cinematic return begins with an apt statement that reflects the experience of his most entertaining films: Channing Tatum’s Jimmy Logan tinkers away at his truck as he tells his daughter Sadie a fantastical tale about the John Denver tune on the radio. When she asks what makes the song so special to him, his matter-of-fact response is that sometimes you just “like the song because of the song.” For all of Soderbergh’s conceptual refinement and polemical subtlety buried within his most mainstream features, sometime you can’t just help love the song.

Logan Lucky is another one of those films for the director, and another of his spectacular ensembles. Tatum is one of three protective Logan siblings along with Adam Driver’s amputee Clyde and Riley Keough’s no-bullshit hairdresser Mellie.  In order to stay a part of his daughter’s life after losing his construction job, Jimmy hatches a plan to rob a NASCAR motorway of its subterranean cash stash. For added muscle the Logans recruit the mischievous Bang brothers, led by current convict and hard-boiled egg enthusiast Joe, played by an inspired and loose Daniel Craig.

Craig is the film’s centerpiece performance and it is one of his very best, sparking with limber humor and genuine oddness. He is the one that is having the most visible fun and its quite contagious - as much as he is relishing playing a different kind of brawn, we get to discover the performer with fresh eyes. The Logan men are more dryly quirky, Tatum all bruised tenderness and Driver with the warbling aw-shucks charm of a southern Kermit the Frog. Keough’s doting sister gets significantly less to do, as do the film’s other women like Katie Holmes as Jimmy’s ex and Hillary Swank’s third act detective.

Despite the sometimes arch southern characterizations, there is something subtle and special about Logan Lucky that is surprisingly cozy. On the surface it’s easy to read the film as a low rent “Ocean’s goes to Nascar” ensemble heist, but that would neglect this film’s stranger intrigues and comparatively less formulaic approach. While the film gives a little too much breathing room to its distractions (especially Seth MacFarlane’s unplaceable British import who seems lifted from another lesser film), its farce delivers some sharp bits like a yoga-inflected chapter for Sebastien Stan and some uproarious pop culture jokes.

A reductive comparison would ignore its tender yet unsaccharine heart burrowed underneath all the Soderberghian idiosyncrasies. Logan Lucky is comfort food. Any one component that someone might complain about (be it something over or under done) is likely to be someone else’s favorite morsel. And to complain about any lack of nutrition is to miss the point that the thing is just supposed to be delicious.

However, there is some deeper agenda to be gleaned from this satire - particularly in its portrait of red state faux opulence and rampant consumerism. What better setting for the film than that tackiness of NASCAR and all its excess to provide the image of money being shuttled literally into the ground? Soderbergh’s touch is lighter than it sounds here, steering the film away from righteousness or unnuanced critique.

Like much of Soderbergh’s work, Logan Lucky is a layered entertainment that is unpretentious in its confidence. Strangely with all its white southern stereotypes and surprises, the film is somewhat unimposing in its ease and relaxed control. But the film’s laidback tone serves to make its sweetness the final note that lingers.

Grade: B+

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Reader Comments (3)

Saw this today. Still haven't made up my mind. I liked the daughter, even if her character sort of inadvertently highlighted the less than ideal gender dynamics (as in: men can have strong, meaningful relationships with little girls but not women, while women narrowly force gender ideals on girls which their male role models need to step in and prevent).

That said, Keough was interesting to watch yet again (although she was playing a slight alteration of American Honey's Crystal). Also didn't know what to make of the Doctor/love interest. It seemed forced in a way as far as the story was concerned, even if it added "time and place" layers.

I really wanted to like Craig in this but I'm not sure if he worked for me here--it may have been some dodgy accent work. But at its best the character was fun to WATCH. Driver seemed a bit less charasmatic than usual and I don't really remember much about what Tatum brought to the role. I think there were more than a few minutes while I was watching that I felt that star power was lacking and didn't pull the scene through. Meanwhile I could have used more of Stan's (oddly tacked on?) racecar driver and less of McFarlane. There just wasn't a lot of payoff ultimately--including the heist/twist(?) itself. Swank also felt a bit forced. It was like a pilot for a very expensive tv series or maybe an intended kick off for a multi-movie saga.

I was more or less interested in where the movie was going but I'll need to marinate on it for a while. I'm not sure if I enjoyed it as much I was interested in it, if that makes sense, even though there were some enjoyable moments.

August 19, 2017 | Unregistered Commentercatbaskets

Saw this last night. Generally liked it, even if it basically followed the EXACT SAME formula as "Ocean's Eleven" and seemed to lack that movie's energy and sparkle. Some of the accents seemed over the top, and I wonder what West Virginians would think of the dim-bulb brothers (played by Marvel from the Hunger Games movies and Brendan Gleeson's *other* son).

Enjoyed Daniel Craig - he definitely was having a ball. He so rarely gets to do a comedic role, he devoured this one.

I don't really get the criticism that Riley Keough isn't given enough to do. She's integral to the heist and the Logan family dynamics. If we don't get much of her internal life or motivations, we don't really get it from any of the characters except for Channing Tatum's. Agree, though, that all of the other female characters are underwritten, and found Hilary Swank very stiff. I think she was going for an effect she didn't quite achieve.

Finally, I now have "Country Roads" stuck in my head. Not that that's a bad thing!

August 20, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterlylee

Looks way too much like a reversed poster of Baby Driver. :/

August 20, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSanty C.

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