Steven Soderbergh is a filmmaker who immediately made waves in American cinema with his debut indie hit Sex, Lies and Videotape. Since then, the famed American directors career has had its ups and downs, but coming out of a short retirement seems like it was for the best with this wonderfully funny crime caper.
Meet Jimmy (Channing Tatum) and Clyde (Adam Driver), the Logan boys. Clyde maintains to think that the family suffers mysterious punishment in the form of the Logan family curse. Jimmy is laid off from his job and in danger of becoming further removed from his daughter’s life, and Clyde is a cynical bartender with one arm, so understandably, he may be onto something. Enough is enough, and the pair begin to devise a plan to get rich quick. Recruiting help, the brothers attempt to pull of a heist during a NASCAR race at the Motor-Speedway in North Carolina. Herein ensues “the hillbilly heist” – or, “the redneck robbery”, take your pick.
Perhaps the greatest aspect of Logan Lucky is its character ensemble. It should be considered nothing less of a pleasure to tag along with this band of misfits as they prove their worth as criminal compadres. The elaborate and intricately conceived heist is orchestrated by a congregation of the desperate, the downtrodden and the dastardly. It is this bizarrely realised concept of such an odd bunch of individuals coming together to achieve something even more offbeat than themselves that helps drive the film. Tatum and Driver are an unlikely pair to cast in the crucial roles as close relations, but from the moment they begin to converse with one another the chemistry between them is binding, and the pairs comedic timing seems in harmonious alignment. Soderbergh understands, though, that to care about the duos plan, you must care about the pairs moral decision; this is quickly established through consideration of Jimmy’s situation. He is not stupid, he is just simple and a little behind on the technological advancement of society – humble and hardworking, misguided if you will. A preferable protagonist is key to invest in a robbery narrative, and Jimmy wins the audience over instantly.
There are clear influences from Soderbergh’s own career on display here, with the overtly obvious example of his 2001 hit Ocean’s Eleven, a film that subsequently sabotaged its own legacy with the spawning of a number of rather unnecessary sequels. Artistic influence also extends to the likes of Stanley Kubrick’s race-track robbery masterpiece, The Killing – and in equal measure feels as though something the Coen Brothers’ could have cooked up, or at the very least, would heartily enjoy watching. It is easy to see why the director wished to make the film so much, its very concept feels perfectly equipped to his talents. Sometimes with heist movies, the characters lay out the plan in predictable montage fashion, and the tension then flourishes from seeing how the culprits deviate from the plan under immense pressure to ensure success. With this however, the plan is advisedly kept concealed; this makes it much more exciting to see how the financial assault on the Speedway unravels. The audience has gotten to know the individuals involved ahead of the heist, and through comedic one-liners, doubt is cemented in the gang’s capability to pull of the impossible. It is this pre-conceived doubt that makes the film remarkable. It is a constant plague on the consciousness as to how they will possibly get away with a crime of such magnitude – and the experience is a lot of fun.
Casting Daniel Craig against type in the role of explosives expert Joe Bang is downright inspired, and provides what may be a career-best performance. The surrounding cast is also excellent, and seem as though they could be found dwindling in the shady bar, ‘The Crab Shack’ from US sitcom My Name Is Earl. The film does lose its momentum in the last act, and it is never laugh out loud funny; jokes that may possibly feel too forced seem to have been reeled in – after all, it is not just a comedy, it is a hybrid of genres, and absurdly screwball. The mythos surrounding the Logan boys and the family curse is amusing but still possesses an intrigue that draws the viewer in, and joining in to see if they can break this fictitious spell is a must.