From Erin Brockovich to Ocean’s Eleven to Magic Mike, Steven Soderbergh has always been a filmmaker that has produced a varied and eclectic range of works, the majority of which I have immensely enjoyed. With his last directorial credit being the 2013 TV movie Behind The Candelabra, I was excited to see just what it was that made it him turn his attentions back to the big screen.
Written by Rebecca Blunt, a pseudonym believed to be Soderbergh’s wife, Julie Asner, Logan Lucky is a charming redneck heist comedy that follows the fortunes of a group of ragtag siblings and friends who plan to rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum), a blue collar worker with an injury halted high school football past and his brother Clyde (Adam Driver), an army vet with a prosthetic arm, enlist the help of their sister Mellie (Riley Keough), convict Joe Bang (Daniel Craig) and his two brothers (played by Brian Gleeson and Jack Quaid) to pull off an elaborate plan to steal money from the vault of the Speedway track on the day of the biggest race of the year. With a fun concept and stellar cast, there is no doubting that Logan Lucky is a satisfying way to spend two hours, but I would have to say that it’s a good film that is prevented from being great by a few glaring missteps and flaws.
Let’s start with the good, because there is certainly more of it. You will be hard pushed to find a more charming group of characters all year. Plagued by what they believe to be a bad luck family curse, Jimmy and Clyde are well meaning, amiable and just the right side of simple to make them utterly charming yet believable enough in their narrative plan. The film is funny, authentically funny, there is no doubt about that. Personally, I have a huge soft spot for Southern accents and Southern sensibilities, and the redneck charm of Logan Lucky is strong and consistent without ever stepping too heavily in to condescension. From comical bar brawls to quirky county fairs to kind hearted child beauty pageants, one could say that the film displays a heightened version of Americana that I personally lap up every single time.
As for the missteps and flaws, without spoiling the plot, there are two supporting characters and performances played by Seth MacFarlane and Hilary Swank that are so bad and cartoonish they really do prove detrimental to the overall feel of the picture. Whilst everything else in the film operates on a quirky but somewhat grounded level, for some reason the choices made by both the filmmakers and actors involved in these character are irretrievably bad. Thankfully, though, these cameos and bit parts are far enough removed from the core meat of the narrative that you can disregard them without them having too much of an adverse effect on the true, authentic enjoyment of the rest of the proceedings.
In suffering through the performances of MacFarlane and the usually much better Swank, the audience are rewarded with some great work from everybody else involved. As protagonist Jimmy, Channing Tatum is at his charming best, proving to be both a loving father and unlikely mastermind. Adam Driver as Clyde is more of a silent reactive type, getting a lot of laughs and mileage whilst keeping a more sedate profile in comparison to the rest of the cast. Together, the actors share an instant chemistry that makes their on screen relationship as brothers feel completely authentic, a really charming and heartwarming centre to a what is a totally zany film.
As eccentric convict Joe Bang, Daniel Craig looks like he is having the time of his life. Seemingly ecstatic to be freed from the cool, calm, collected framework of James Bond, Craig is brilliant as the unrestrained, peculiar explosions expert who busts out of jail to assist the Logan brothers in their mission. As Joe’s brothers Sam and Fish, Brian Gleeson and Jack Quaid play very much in to the Tweedledum and Tweedledee archetypes, but once again both actors pull the characters off with so much charm that you don’t mind the slight cartoonish nature of their existence.
Special mention to Riley Keough as sister Mellie Logan, a role that is played superbly and, in truth, deserved more attention and screen time. Keough is magnificent in the part, and with recent great performances in Mad Max: Fury Road, Lovesong and It Comes At Night, it’s only a matter of time before she breaks out in a huge, huge way.
Overall, Logan Lucky is a fast paced, whirlwind of a heist comedy that is enthused with quirky, redneck charm at every corner. If you’ve seen Soderbergh’s name and are expecting something on the precise, intricate, sophisticated plot level of the Ocean’s franchise, then you probably won’t find what you are looking for. However, if you want to spend a couple of hours in the company of some great characters and can forgive a few missteps in favour of the bigger, funnier picture, then there is certainly a lot to love.