Logan Lucky (****1/2) is Ocean’s on a budget

LoganLucky

Logan Lucky – 2017

Director Steven Soderbergh
Writer Rebecca Blunt
Starring Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Seth MacFarlane, Riley Keough, Katie Holmes, Katherine Waterston, Dwight Yoakam, Sebastian Stan, Hilary Swank, Daniel Craig

Katherine Waterston has been in two films in 2017 that prominently featured John Denver’s Take Me Home, Country Roads. One of those films was a horridly hashed together sequel / prequel, the other one is an excellent retread. Welcome back Steven Soderbergh. This film is an excellent example of what the kind of work you do really well.

For those unfamiliar with Soderbergh’s previous entries in the heist genre, watch the Ocean’s films. Yes you can watch all three. The first is the best, but they’re all good. Or you could just watch this, for now.

Logan Lucky is the blue-collar version of a heist movie. Taking the place of a glitzy casino is the Charlotte Motor Speedway, holding the Coca Cola 600. Jimmy Logan (Tatum) and his brother, Clyde (Driver) have both succumbed to the Logan Curse so far in life, but their plan is to circumvent its effects and push on to a better life for their sister and themselves. There’s more going on, but this is all you need to know for now.

Along for the heist is Joe Bang (Craig) and his two brothers. The hitch is that Bang is already in prison. In order to get his help in cracking the safe at the Speedway, they need to have Clyde go to prison in order to help get Joe out, then pull of the heist. After that, get them both back to prison.

Watching events unfold, wondering if the Logans can outrun the cloud of their curse and pull it off is entertaining, even if its obvious that it has to happen. The best part of the film is that it doesn’t end there. There are several interpersonal elements that come to fore in a tangled weave of family that resonate in a simple way. The film ends in such a beautifully abstract way, one can’t help but want the camera to keep rolling.

One of the film’s strengths is in the acting. There are very few missed beats here. All of the principles are remarkably subtle. The best is Driver, who continually shows a range that belies his look. Craig is excellently against type as well. His handling of a clichéd character is so rich, one wishes they could see more films just about Joe Bang.

Riley Keough is excellent as sister Mellie. She is a vixen, but she’s smarter than the lot of them. Needless to say, her life should not be limited to luck. Waterston is also extremely sweet in her near cameo as Jimmy’s former schoolmate, Sylvia. The look on her face when Jimmy tries to recall her is priceless. That he thinks they might have kissed is sublime.

Channing Tatum, for his part, has found his niche working with Soderbergh. After Magic Mike, his career took a turn and he’s never had to look back. Their work together puts them both on another level. I have enjoyed everything they’ve done together and look forward to the stuff they do in the future.

Speaking of future, it’s pretty certain that no one believed Soderbergh was retired for good after Behind the Candelabra. Sure enough, he’s got another film already in the can. His is a remarkable career, so far. Nowhere near perfect, but always interesting.

This film is a perfect Sunday afternoon flick. Low commitment and it doesn’t cure the world’s ills. There are some touching moments like the last time you hear that John Denver song. There is some amount of overdoing it with the accent, especially on the peripheral characters. It’s a minor quibble, though. If you like movies, but aren’t shooting for the moon, this is it. Where else are you going to hear Patsy Cline in a bar?

(****1/2 out of *****)

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