FILM REVIEW – LOGAN LUCKY. With Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Daniel Craig, Katie Holmes, Hilary Swank. Written by Rebecca Blunt. Directed by Steven Soderbergh. Rated PG-13 for language and some crude comments. 119 minutes.
Has Hollywood forgotten how to do a “sit-back-and-entertain-you” movie that doesn’t involve superheroes, sequels, or remakes? Director Steven Soderbergh, who has a few sequels strewn among a filmography that also includes some serious arthouse fare, hasn’t forgotten. With LOGAN LUCKY , he has made a movie that is a perfect bit of late-summer fun.
Channing Tatum is Jimmy Logan, a former high school football star who was to go on to a great sports career until an injury put an end to that dream. Now he drifts from job to job, wanting to be part of his young daughter’s life even though his ex-wife Bobbie Jo (Katie Holmes) has remarried to someone much more successful. Jimmy’s brother Clyde (Adam Driver) went off to fight in Iraq, and it’s suggested he went instead of his brother so as to allow him his football career. While Jimmy was sustaining sports injuries, Clyde lost his arm.
The Logans seem might unlucky, and Jimmy loses his latest job when he’s deemed uninsurable. And so he concocts a plan to rob a NASCAR racetrack, in a wildly improbable scheme involving the tunnels beneath the track that he had been constructing. To pull off the heist, they will need an expert safecracker by the name of Joe Bang (a surprisingly hilarious Daniel Craig). He’s up for the robbery but there’s a drawback: he’s currently behind bars. So they will have to bust him out–temporarily–to assist with the scheme, and then get him back before anyone’s the wiser. It couldn’t get more complicated if it involved a prison riot over access to HBO’s “Game of Thrones” series… which it does.
Indeed, like the “Ocean’s 11” films–all three of which Soderbergh directed–this is an entertainment, not a deep statement about the human condition. He knows precisely how the formula works: likable leads, eccentric supporting characters, a complicated plan, unexpected glitches, and a reason to sympathize with the robbers rather than the victims. He gives us all of that and more, with a strong cast ruled by Tatum. Jimmy’s loyalty to his brother and love and affection for his daughter make us want to cheer him on. By contrast, Craig’s Joe, while a definite plus to the movie, would not generate that sort of connection were he the lead character.
As the hapless Clyde, Driver has to occasionally darken the story–especially when his artificial arm goes missing–but does it in such a way that it doesn’t throw the movie off-kilter. It’s a bit of what might be called “dramatic relief” in an otherwise comic film. Credit must also be given to young Farrah Mackenzie who plays Jimmy’s daughter Sadie. Mackenzie and Tatum have a nice rapport, and she comes across as a little girl who adores her dad, not a professional child actress pulling the heartstrings on cue.
By the end of “Logan Lucky,” where a government investigator (Hillary Swank) tries to figure out what’s happened and finds her way unexpectedly blocked, Soderbergh provides a few final twists including a hint that a sequel’s in the offing. This movie doesn’t need a sequel, but it generates such goodwill and entertainment value that you won’t be disappointed if he decides to go ahead with one anyway.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His latest novel is Time on My Hands: My Misadventures in Time Travel. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.