Okay, so to start with, I love Steven Soderbergh films. I was already prepared to like “Logan Lucky” figuring that it would be a twist on the formula that worked so well for the “Ocean’s Eleven” films.
In a way it is. If you’ve seen those, you already know the elements. There is the introduction of the cast of characters, the revelation of the plan, the execution, and then the reveal of what was happening that we missed that shows how it gets pulled off.
In other ways it’s nothing like “Ocean’s Eleven.” There is a huge risk in thinking that it is making fun of rednecks. It isn’t. Granted, white Americans from the south are pretty much the last people that we are still allowed to mock, but if anything the joke is on every person who mentally deducts 10 IQ points from their estimate whenever a Southerner opens their mouth.
I’m brought to mind of a classmate of mine in college. We were in a Philosophy of Language class, reading a ton of modern work on language and the social construction on reality. One obnoxious boy has a habit of trying to show off his reading by referencing authors not on the class reading list. Unfortunately, he was not particularly bright. On the other hand, my friend, a seminarian from Arkansas, was about as sharp as they came. One day, after Pretentious Boy tried to again impress us with his extracurricular reading, my friend tucked his thumbs behind his John Deere suspenders, and starting with “Well, I’m just a boy from Arkansas, buuuut…” proceeded to tear his logic to shreds. Few people saw past the suspenders and hick accent until it was too late.
And it would be very easy to underestimate Jimmy Logan. Channing Tatum plays him to believable perfection as a down-and-out miner, a former football star and homecoming king. In fact the first hint that he has brains is dropped when it’s mentioned that he was quarterback. Plenty of people are going to miss that if you’re quarterback for a high school team in a hardscrabble West Virginia town, that means you have a head in your shoulders and are a planner.
The rest of the cast inhabit the world just as well. Adam Driver’s Clyde Logan, veteran, amputee, and bartender, is the younger brother who keeps getting roped into his brother’s schemes. And Riley Keough’s Melly Logan rounds out the siblings as the fast driving hairdresser who can hot wire cars without breaking a nail. It’s easy to believe that they grew up together and care for each other.
Beyond this family circle are Jimmy’s ex (played to perfection by Katie Holmes) and their daughter, a pageant princess who knows her way around a tool box and just wants her daddy to not flake out for once. Jimmy’s love for her is at the heart of his character and sells much of the rest of the story.
Convicted explosives expert Joe Bang (a delightful Daniel Craig) and his two brothers are the needed crew for the heist, a robbery of the vaults of Charlotte Motor Speedway. (Afterwards, my husband commented that had he written a heist film populated by his high school friends, it would appear eerily similar. The world building is excellent, getting the social strata dead to rights.)
I won’t go into too much detail of the heist itself, but the elements are fun, paying off everything from Chekov’s Ice Shortage to a offhand comment made by Jimmy about a mechanic recommendation.
Technically, I have little to complain about and much to praise. Cinematography was high quality (I would expect nothing else from Soderbergh) and sound reinforcement and soundtrack were well chosen. But costuming is where I am completely shook. It’s the little things. Jimmy’s RealTree cargo pants. Melly’s numerous neon colored bras peeking through her shirts. Clyde’s tee-shirts. The slightly upscale dance-mom clothes and the polo and slacks worn by Jimmy’s ex and her new husband. Like I said, they got the social strata dead to rights. I have minor issues with pacing, but that’s about it.
There are lots of wonderful character parts. Sebastian Stan, for example, plays a health nut racecar driver who’s stuck racing for an obnoxious energy drink promoter played by Seth MacFarlane. Hilary Swank enters late in the game as a tough FBI investigator who is probably the only person to guess at the Logan’s involvement…but can’t pin it on them.
It’s not for everyone. I think it will probably be a lot funnier if you’ve actually lived in the South for the same reason Steel Magnolias is possibly my husband’s favorite movie. It’s good filmmaking and damn funny.
(By the way, in person I would probably gush a lot more about Driver and Tatum. Both are fantastic and play well off one another. But it’s nearly 2am and my phone is running out of battery.)
This movie needs a second viewing. Many things happened off screen, but Soderbergh planted just enough clues for viewers to figure out by themselves. Such a process is the most fun parts of watching the movie.
Also, Tatum has become a fine actor over the years, given the right script and a good director, he can do “magic”.