Steven Soderbergh returns from retirement with Logan Lucky, a hillbilly heist caper brimming with good natured humor. This is not an Ocean's Eleven redux. There is a rather detailed robbery, but that plays second fiddle to the characters and the setting. The ensemble cast is the draw. The film is a showcase for their eccentric behavior. In that sense, Logan Lucky feels more like a Coen Brothers movie. It plays to the southern drawl, folksy dynamic of good people resorting to crime.
Soderbergh favorite Channing Tatum stars as Jimmy Logan. He's just lost his job as a construction worker at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Jimmy's precocious daughter (Farrah Mackenzie) is about to uprooted by his ex-wife (Katie Holmes). Strapped for cash and low on options, Jimmy decides to rob the Speedway vault during the Coca-Cola 600 race. He enlists his one-armed brother, Clyde (Adam Driver), and fetching beautician sister, Mellie (Riley Keough). Jimmy needs the specialized services of local criminal legend, Joe Bang (Daniel Craig). The problem with old Joe is his current status as an incarcerated prisoner. No worries at all, Jimmy has a plan for him as well.
Logan Lucky refers to the Logan family's bad luck. The film portrays the tight-knit West Virginia family as bedeviled by ill fortune. Jimmy was a high school football star destined for fame and fortune, until a knee injury derailed him. Clyde was on his way home from the war, then gets his arm blown off his last day in country. Robbing a bank may seem foolhardy with that track record, but Jimmy believes the Logan luck is about to change.
The film moves at a slow, deliberate pace. Soderbergh completely immerses you into the aw shucks, good old boys world of the Logans. Every character has a moment in the sun. While the plan to rob the bank is quite detailed, it never overtakes character development. The Logans and their cohorts have depth. This is particularly evident in a sub-plot about Joe's daughter's beauty pageant. These scenes have a whole lot of heart. Most filmmakers would not have given this thread that much screen time. Soderbergh understands the emotional payoff and works it masterfully.
Adam Driver and Daniel Craig are standouts in a great ensemble cast. Driver plays Clyde as meek and mild-mannered, always backing his older brother's play. His antics with the prosthetic arm are hilarious. Craig is as far away from James Bond as possible with Joe Bang. From his laconic brogue to his short-cropped blonde hair, Craig disappears into the outlandish character. The prison scenes in Logan Lucky are more entertaining than the actual robbery. I was howling with laughter throughout.
Logan Lucky has a measured reveal regarding the climactic robbery. This method works in an overall context, but does have a critical flaw. There's never a point where I felt the Logans where in danger. The authorities are buffoons. Everything fits into their plan like perfect pieces to a puzzle. It becomes unrealistic to the point of whimsical. Soderbergh needed to add a bit more angst to the stew.
From Bleecker Street Films, Logan Lucky is akin to a cool glass of southern peach tea. It's light and refreshing with just a tad of sweetness. Steven Soderbergh has not lost a step in his brief sabbatical. Logan Lucky is another feather in the cap of a great filmmaker.