Steven Soderbergh puts off retirement once more with his Southern-fried “Ocean’s 7/11”, Logan Lucky. Named for the unfortunate clan at its core, this whip-smart and deeply country crime caper stars Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, and Riley Keough as three siblings who decide to rob a massive North Carolina arena during a major NASCAR race. Sure, by day Jimmy (Tatum) is a bum-legged construction worker, Clyde (Driver) is a one-armed bartender, and Mellie (Keough) is a smirking hairdresser. But by night, they’re building cardboard models of the super secure speedway, planning escape routes, and masterminding a complicated plan that loops in the incarcerated explosions expert Joe Bang (Daniel Craig with a delightfully Southern twang) and his two trotter-bobbing brothers.
The premise is a bit like Hell or Highwater, where some good ol’ boys rebel against a system that’s used them up then tossed them away—in this case football stardom and military service—by robbing it blind, through a very ingenious and involved heist. And mysterious screenwriter Rebecca Blunt folds in a slew of colorful characters and Southern charm.
Tatum grounds Logan Lucky from the start, goateed and goading Jimmy’s ten-year-old daughter Sadie (Farrah Mackenzie), a daddy’s girl who loves beauty pageants, by telling her tales of singer John Denver. When his trophy-chasing ex Bobbie Jo (Katie Holmes) informs Jimmy that she and her car dealership-owning lug of a second husband (David Denman in a small but spot-on performance) are moving across state lines, the former football star has to craft a game plan for a big payout, so he can stay close to his little girl.
Driver plays the glum foil to Tatum’s charming
potato thief. Obsessed with the Logan “curse,” Clyde is fretful of this criminal endeavor. But blood runs thicker than fear, and so Clyde will crash through convenience stores or molotov cocktail an obnoxious tourist’s luxury car as needed. Meanwhile, Keough steals scenes with a vibrant wardrobe of skimpy skirts and brazen bras, paired with a nonchalant edge, sharp smirk and playful defiance. At a point, it seems Logan Lucky teases a sequel, and I’d root for one for more Mellie alone!
Jack Quaid and Brian Gleeson are unrecognizable but hilarious as the Bang brothers Fish and Sam, playing a pair that ping-pong off each other with a blend of daffiness and occasionally electric insight. But Craig is a special treat as Joe Bang. The actor who’s so long been shackled by the stoic role of the ever-cool Bond gets to let loose as a shit-talking, easily agitated redneck intellectual who has a deep knowledge of chemistry and an inflammatory use for gummy bears. There’s a slew of brief appearances by other notable names like Macon Blair and Hilary Swank as humorless special agents, LeAnn Rimes as herself, Sebastian Stan as a NASCAR driver who’s really into metaphors and yoga, and Seth MacFarlane, who is largely distracting with a wacky English accent and cringe-inducing facial hair. (At least he’s not in it long.) But it’s Craig who gives this wild and witty comedy its biggest bang in this wild ride.
Lithe, lively and ludicrous, Logan Lucky is a joyful celebration of Southern culture that folds in complicated family ties, kiddie tractor races, snitty church ladies, child beauty pageants, and a generous helping of down-home whimsy. Its characters are ex-cons, beauty queens, screw-ups, born-agains, rednecks, and coal-mining misfits. Yet they are also brothers, fathers, sisters, mothers, geniuses, and folk heroes. After a trilogy of slick and glamorous Ocean’s 11 movies, Soderbergh offers a new kind of charming rogue to root for. And instead of idolizing the Rat Pack and swanning about in sleek business suits, this one proudly wears overalls, a ball-cap and sings John Denver.