Though its zany plot gets a little lost in the weeds, a quirky cast of misfits carries ‘Logan Lucky’ through.
Heist movies run on two equally important elements: Elaborate plans, and believability. Logan Lucky, from director Steven Soderbergh, has plenty of the first, as a pair of brothers from West Virginia orchestrate step after obtusely convoluted step in order to successfully rob a speedway on the day of the year’s biggest race. And while we had a lot of fun taking in the scenery ahead of our Logan Lucky review, we couldn’t help but feel the movie comes up well short on plausibility.
Logan Lucky might not pull off every aspect of its plan flawlessly, it gets close enough to be a lot of fun.
Logan Lucky actually isn’t unlike Soderbergh’s other elaborate heist movie, his reboot of Ocean’s Eleven, and it suffers from some of the same problems. That movie has a lengthy plan, a ridiculous number of steps, and a bunch of highly specialized people in place at the perfect moment to execute the thing they’re especially good at. Part of the fun is watching the human Rube Goldberg machine at work, and marveling at its complexity.
But like Ocean’s Eleven, Logan Lucky starts to break down a bit when its characters transition from average human to superhuman, sporting knowledge of probabilities, outcomes, police protocols, random science, human nature, and psychology that would make Batman scratch his head.
Ocean Eleven gets by on its fun, extremely cool characters, and Logan Lucky subsists on its fun, eccentric (but not-quite-cartoonish) cast as well. Led by an exceedingly charismatic Channing Tatum and a turn by Daniel Craig at his most delightfully un-Bond best, the movie brings some heart to the heist genre, and you can’t help but hope everything goes to plan just because the down-on-their-luck criminals could really use the cash.
While Logan Lucky might not pull off every aspect of its plan flawlessly, it gets close enough to make this film an entertaining ride.
The hillbilly heist
Jimmy Logan (Tatum) is down on his luck. A high school football star who ruined his leg and his chance at the NFL, he’s now struggling to hold construction jobs. His brother, Clyde (Adam Driver, doing a take on his stoic Kylo Ren that belies an unpredictable smolder with a blank face and seemingly dull demeanor), lost his hand in Iraq and believes the Logans are cursed.
His obviously-too-smart-for-her-lot sister Mellie (Riley Keough) is a hairdresser who mostly seems bored with her life while trying to help Jimmy hold his together. On top of all of that, Jimmy’s ex-wife Bobbie Jo (Katie Holmes) is looking to take their daughter Sadie (Farrah Mackenzie) out of the state with her well-off (but rather dumb) car-dealer husband (David Denman).
The movie can’t seem to decide if its cartoonishly absurd or just a little quirky.
The Logans aren’t just a band of would-be criminals, they’re also a family to whom fate has dealt a crap hand over and over again. Logan Lucky has some serious class undertones about folks pulling a Robin-Hood caper only after struggling to pull themselves out the honorable way, but what really makes the Logans easy to root for is that they never complain.
The Logans are unlucky, but they’re also fighters, and the movie uses its southern setting not to set them up as laughable rubes (although it looks like it’s taking steps in that direction at times), but as underestimated scrappers.
So when Jimmy starts laying out his plan to rob the NASCAR speedway, it’s not long before the Logan family is on board. They set out to recruit their incarcerated explosives expert pal, Joe Bang (a ridiculous Craig), but that requires bringing in his idiot brothers (Jack Quaid and Brian Gleeson), and breaking Joe out of prison.
Before long, it’s starting to seem like the plan is getting out of control, but the able cast more than manages, and Jimmy’s undercurrent story of a good dad who needs a break keeps things flowing.
While the heist mostly stays in sight and on track, it’s the jokes that can mess with the flow. Logan Lucky can’t seem to decide if its cartoonishly absurd or just a little quirky, and the result is a number of comedy moments that feel out of pace with the rest of the movie.
Are the characters barely capable idiots or underestimated masterminds? Neither and both, it seems. When the vacuum used to swipe the money from the speedway vault accidentally yanks off Clyde’s prosthetic, the movie acts as if this is going to be a major disaster, particularly when Clyde looks like he’ll jeopardize the whole operation to retrieve it — but the moment fizzles and never really goes anywhere.
And then there’s the plotline of Jimmy struggling to be a good dad when the world keeps getting in his way. Every time he drops by Bobbie Jo’s to deal with the realities of being poor and divorced, it feels like we’re stopping by another movie, with a more serious tone that doesn’t really jibe with the rest of the ride.
Still, though the film feels a little confused about what it wants to be, Logan Lucky still delivers a lot of fun. Once it starts humming along with its crazy improbable heist, surprising the audience again and again as the plan unfolds, it becomes a joy to watch.
All of the elements might not gel together completely, but the strong cast (Craig in particular is a ton of fun to watch ), the goofier jokes, and the well drawn intricacies of the overly elaborate robbery make up for it.
Logan Lucky might not be the best heist movie you’ve seen, but it’s absolutely entertaining. It’s not a perfect job, but somehow this backwoods band of misfits pulls it off.
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