Courtesy of Bleecker Street
Don't call it a comeback, but Steven Soderbergh has returned from “retirement.” (As if anyone thought that notion was ever going to last.) In 2013, after he helmed the Emmy darling “Behind The Candelabra,” the Oscar winning director swore off filmmaking, and, quite honestly, I had a feeling we could possibly see him again. Perhaps it’s because he found a distributor that would fulfill his vision, and let him release a movie the way he wants. “Logan Lucky” is supposedly his big leap back onto the scene, and even if the plot mechanics stretch the thin veil of plausibility, this is Soderberg finding his niche again for those seeking something different in the drought of August. The film begs you not to take it seriously, then straps you in for a solid two hours of gas guzzling fun.
Shot with the same type of setting that has defined the director's work before it, the story begins in the hills of West Virginia, where construction worker Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) is trying to make ends meet for himself, and his daughter, despite his bad leg that costed him his job and 100 years of not-so-good-luck. The funny thing is, Jimmy isn’t that old but sharing the Logan name comes with it’s own family curse that dates back for generations. That’s probably the reason why Clyde (Adam Driver) isn’t too perplexed about losing an arm on the way home from the war. Because, he, too, chops it up to bad luck and his family name. So what’s a pair of brothers - and their little sister Mellie (Riley Keough) - supposed to do in frantically tough times?
Rob an international motor speedway.
What was later dubbed as “the hillbilly heist,” Soderberg sets up his second act exposition perfectly with the brothers paying a friendly visit to inmate, and demolitions expert Joe Bang (Daniel Craig) and devise the most ludicrous plan to rip off a racetrack on one of the busiest weekends of the year. See, what you probably didn't know is that big race tracks store all their money into one big lump pile inside a secure vault. The concession employees deliver the money via tubes underground (like ones you see at a bank drive-thru). And that's how our comrades plan to steal the money. Because, lucky enough, Jimmy’s construction company has left a gigantic hole in the wall leaving unlimited access. It’s a crazy enough plan, but it just might work. It requires help from Bang’s not so bright brothers, Sam and Fish (Brian Gleeson and Jack Quaid) and the will to beat some impeccable odds. These are the kind of odds that Soderberg infused into his iconic “Oceans 11” crime capers, and that’s what keeps “Lucky” on a brisk pace. That, and all the characters act like they have all the answers, and essentially, they’re so likable (and dimwitted) you can’t help but root for them.
The stakes are always high but we never feel like these fellas are in any actual danger, and all the subplots that superimpose into the picture flow ceaselessly. My favorite is one that involves a prison riot, one in which the warden (Dwight Yoakam - where has he been?) doesn’t want to report it because his ego is too big for him to admit that he can’t even run his own facility. Another favorite moment was when Bang concocted some mechanism - (made entirely of gummy bears and bleach pens) to blow a necessary hole to recover money from the secured bank vault. And it would be wrong of me not to mention the running gag with Clyde and his prosthetic limb. Funny stuff.
“Lucky” doesn’t really do much to reinvent the genre of heist capers and the laughs don’t get piled on as frequent as you wish. But the rock-solid energy of Craig, Tatum and Driver fuel the second act when it was most crucial and it’s a cast you want to spend time with. But my biggest issue still revolves around how easy Soderberg makes this whole scheme seem to the general public. I mean, it’s hard for me not to dissect every waking second, even though we aren’t supposed too. But then I remember this isn’t the normalcy of high tech smart criminals from before, these are blue collar, normal everyday guys with lazy southern accents. Which, ironically, makes the movie so worth it. And this is a film that is constantly plotting ahead even in the extended finale, when we are introduced to some new folks that might just put a hinge in the plans of our cohorts. As forced as it maybe, the script allows ample time for these characters to be developed in a matter of seconds. A testament to the editing (which was also done by Soderberg). “Logan Lucky” feels like a quick shot in the arm, as it should, with a rapid fire essence that at least tries to make you care, even if, at times, the true story might be hard to believe. B