Steven Soderbergh branches out in new directions while simultaneously returning to familiar territory in Logan Lucky, all without taking things too seriously.
The latest from the versatile filmmaker is another heist movie — he’s already made a trilogy’s worth of those — with modest aspirations and a hillbilly twist that’s both amusing and thrilling in equal doses.
It takes place in West Virginia, where Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) loses his job in construction and is locked in a stressful custody battle with his ex-wife (Katie Holmes). At least he has a close relationship with his brother, Clyde (Adam Driver), a bartender who lost an arm in Iraq and has trouble keeping his prosthetic limb attached.
Determined to reverse the family fortunes, the siblings hatch a plan to rob Charlotte Motor Speedway during its biggest NASCAR race of the year. After all, Jimmy worked on a project at the track once and knows some of its infrastructure.
So they start assembling a crew that begins with Joe Bang (Daniel Craig), a hot-headed explosives expert who needs to be broken out of prison in order to participate. A few other lowlifes tag along for the big day, when of course, not everything goes as planned.
The film isn’t exactly flattering to the NASCAR fan base, which might be appropriate depending on your affinity for motorsports. Still, it’s more affectionate than condescending toward its characters, even if we laugh at their abundant, um, eccentricities.
The character-driven screenplay gives these protagonists sympathy beyond treating them like lovable losers or bumbling ne’er-do-wells with surprising aptitude toward planning and executing such an intricate and elaborate robbery at a high-profile venue. It’s not worth quibbling over some of the logical gaps, muddled ethics, or narrative meandering.
The film’s eclectic casting choices prove savvy, with Craig in particular stealing his scenes as a criminal mastermind with white hair and an outrageous accent. He’s the polar opposite of James Bond. The ensemble also includes Dwight Yoakam, Hilary Swank, and Seth MacFarlane.
Logan Lucky hints at an evocative satire of blue-collar, red-state America, while offering a lighthearted look at the criminal justice system and the nature of celebrity while its con artists transform into folk heroes. However, more than good guys and bad guys, this is about breezy, high-octane fun that doesn’t just go in circles.