There is an easy and obvious comparison to be made between the 2001 “Ocean’s Eleven” remake and 2017’s “Logan Lucky.” Both are heist movies. Both offer a blend of serious moments with a lot of humor and some truly clever bits. Both have some great performances. Heck, “Logan Lucky” even offers an overt reference to “Ocean’s Eleven.”
Oh yeah, one other thing – both movies are directed by Steven Soderbergh.
Despite all that, I hesitate to center this review on such a comparison. It feels as though it does a disservice to “Logan Lucky,” a movie that deserves to be recognized all on its own. In a summer which has had some wonderful feel-good films, “Logan Lucky” is still a standout.
At the center of things here is the Logan family – Jimmy (Channing Tatum), Clyde (Adam Driver), and Mellie (Riley Keough). After losing his job helping alleviate sinkholes under the Charlotte Motor Speedway, Jimmy decides he’s going to put his knowledge of the place to good use and rob the Speedway.
A heist movie directed by Soderbergh focused on robbing the Charlotte Motor Speedway. What more could you possibly need to know? Okay, probably a lot…
Jimmy has to put together a group of folks to help him make his plan work, a group which includes an expert at blowing open the type of safe at the Speedway, Joe Bang (Daniel Craig); and Bang insists on his brothers taking part as well.
The film is full of random bits of fun and asides, including an appearance by Sebastian Stan as a race car driver and Seth MacFarlane as the gregarious owner of the race car team. The various asides never take too long and always feel as they add to the sum total of the picture, as does the rest of the cast which includes Katie Holmes, Katherine Waterston, David Denman, Hilary Swank, Jim O’Heir, and Farrah Mackenzie as Jimmy’s daughter, Sadie.
In terms of the heist itself, it is this beautiful, low-tech, endeavor. Soderbergh’s direction and Rebecca Blunt’s script make the entire thing seem completely and totally plausible despite the utterly outlandish nature of it. Watching the team make the robbery happen, the lead-up to it, and the fallout from it, is pure joy. In a movie full of great scenes, the heist itself tops them all.
At the core of the film though is not the heist, but rather the relationship between Jimmy and his daughter, Sadie. Jimmy is not a perfect father, and the movie makes that quite clear. What he is though, is a father who strives for perfection. He wants to provide his daughter with everything she could want; he wants to be there for her, and yet there are times where his own ineptitude stops him from making that happen. It is this beautifully human thing and Tatum portrays it with depth and integrity.
Impressively, this serious core to the film never allows the whole thing to get bogged down nor is ever minimized. It is an example of deft storytelling.
The true stand-out of the movie though is not Tatum, nor Driver (although he is great), but rather Craig. Daniel Craig’s Joe Bang is an hysterical creation. Craig owns every single scene in which he appears and, unlike his last Bond outing, “Spectre,” the actor appears to be having a great time in “Lucky Logan.” The excellence doesn’t rely simply upon Craig’s ability to do an accent and deliver these wacky lines, but also upon his physicality. The way he carries himself makes him a felt presence throughout the movie, drawing one’s attention to whatever he is doing and whatever he is about to say (which, odds are, will make one laugh).
While I single out Craig for his performance, everyone in the movie is good. Everyone is funny, everyone is memorable, everyone adds to the story and to the audience’s enjoyment of it.
As effusive as I have been in my praise, I don’t think that the film is perfect. It left me wanting to know more about the heist and the investigation. I love what we got, but somehow it doesn’t feel totally complete.
Who knows, maybe it’ll all be explained in “Logan Luckier.”
There, now I can ask again what else you might need to know with the answer being “not much.” The comparison to “Ocean’s Eleven” does work, but isn’t necessary, it’s great with or without the comparison.
“Logan Lucky” doesn’t feel as though it’s taking a mocking tone towards its characters even if they’re humorous creations. The theft is a clever one. It is fun, lighthearted filmmaking that doesn’t forget the serious reasons behind the heist in the first place and a great way to help bring the summer to a close.
photo credit: Bleecker Street