“You Logans must be as simple-minded as people say.”
Steven Soderbergh knows how to make a hell of a comeback, but does it even feel like he left at all? A few years after announcing his retirement from filmmaking, the man has done nothing but keep himself busy, from producing several projects (The Girlfriend Experience, Red Oaks) to helming The Knick on Showtime and Behind the Candelabra for HBO, spoiling audiences all the same with his presence and talents. With Logan Lucky, it’s clear that the beloved director has not missed a single beat, finding his groove all too easily with a cast of misfits at the center, and to thrilling, hilarious results. Logan Lucky is more than a hillbilly heist comedy – it’s also one of the most cleverly written movies in theaters this summer, and with a gang of redneck goofballs to lead the charge, it marks a welcome return to cinemas for the filmmaker himself.
Logan Lucky also sees Soderbergh in his fourth collaboration with Channing Tatum, but it’s only now that this former Tatum skeptic has at last seen the light, understanding what the director has seen in the everyman beefcake all along. As Jimmy Logan, Tatum puts on his best (or worst?) Southern accent, and proves himself as quite effective and sincere, leading the charge as a down-on-his-luck mine worker from West Virginia whose main motivation is his young daughter, Sadie (Farrah Mackenzie). The thing is, after somebody from HR notices that he has a limp (which occurred after an unfortunate incident in his high school football days), his employer is forced to let him go, seeing him as an insurance liability. But desperate times call for desperate measures, and Jimmy isn’t keen on giving up.
His brother, on the other hand, sees their fates as nothing but cursed. Adam Driver plays Clyde, Jimmy’s “loser” young brother, an Iraq veteran who lost his hand in the war, thus with a prosthetic that serves as quite possibly his most favorite thing in the world. While he gets wrapped up in his brother’s antics by day, Clyde is a bartender by night, serving customers old and new at a bar comically called Duck Tape. Despite Clyde’s inherent cynicism, Jimmy manages to rope him into pulling a heist on the Coca-Cola 600, one of NASCAR’s biggest races of the year. After all, since Jimmy worked the mines at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, he knows precisely how they shuffle the money around through an elaborate set of pipes just beneath the surface, all leading to a motherlode of cash that would surely satisfy them for the rest of their lives. Naturally, of course, their plan and its execution aren’t without a hilarious series of hijinks or fuck-ups.
To pull this off, they must recruit a convict named Joe Bang (Daniel Craig, in one of his best, most memorable turns), who is notorious for his ability to break into highly-secured banks. The thing is, of course, is that Joe is still incarcerated, and the brothers must find a way to pull him out of prison during the day for the heist, only to later return him to prison unscathed and unfound. As Joe, Craig has a blast and makes for an utter delight to watch, reminding us that he is far more than his James Bond talents have served him. As a bleach blonde, science-loving hillbilly, Craig is a total standout among an already brilliantly-casted set of characters, providing plenty of comic relief on top of an already hilarious script.
Rounding out the gang is the third Logan sibling, Mellie (Riley Keough, another frequent Soderbergh collaborator), a beauty salon pro who is as good with teasing hair as she is with fixing cars. Almost completely surrounded by men, Mellie more than holds her own, multitasking behind the scenes as she assists her brothers in the operation while dutifully playing aunt duties as Sadie prepares for her big pageant. To add to the hilarity are Joe’s own dumb-as-rocks brothers, Fish (Sam Quaid) and Sam (Brian Gleeson), both of whom spend their days sleeping in their underwear when they aren’t bobbing for pigs at the local Easter festival. Ocean’s 7-Eleven, this certainly is.
As this group of camouflage-sporting, trucker hat-loving gang attempt to pull off the impossible, they do so with very little grace but a whole lot of charm, making for an easy set of protagonists to root for. Ridiculous as the whole thing sounds, Soderbergh clearly has an affinity for these characters, letting scenes breathe slowly to revel in their hilarity. Logan Lucky is an absolute blast, but what makes it so good is how easy Soderbergh makes it all look, proving his deft, necessary touch as a filmmaker.