If it was possible to put the work of Steven Soderbergh into a box, that container would have a number of smaller chambers to dividing it. LOGAN LUCKY sits solidly inside the one labelled “crime comedy,” and is a spirtual successor to the likes of Out of Sight and Ocean’s 11 and its sequels. In fact, Soderbergh name-checks the latter by dubbing this “Ocean’s 7-11.”
The Logan family curse isn’t enough to keep down siblings Jimmy (Channing Tatum), Mellie (Riley Keough), and Clyde Logan (Adam Driver), who set out to rob the vault at the Charlotte Motor Speedway during a major NASCAR event. Enacting an elaborate plan that involves springing explosives expert Joe Bang (Daniel Craig) from prison, the ambitious plan hopes to turn the family’s luck around.
The shopfront of LOGAN LUCKY is familiar, with the high-profile cast and the rapid-fire dialogue mirroring the conventions of the genre. Rebecca Blunt’s screenplay marks its difference, assuming said screenwriter actually exists, in the completely unglamourous approach to the material. Despite the calibre of the talent, or perhaps as a testament to it, these actors completely disappear underneath cheap clothes and thick West Virginian accents.
Keough, for example, is a much more likable cousin of her hustler part in American Honey. It should also come as no surprise to fans of Paterson that Driver is capable of unstated comedy, but his one-armed bartender might be one of the finest examples of his range. Coupled with Tatutm’s dialogue-chewing West Virginian dad, they form a comedy double-act that is only challenged by Brian Gleeson and Jack Quaid as Bang’s simpleton brothers.
The film takes few chances structurally, with Tatum’s Jimmy actually writing out a heist checklist at the start of the film that the script more or less follows for the remainder. What keeps the audience engaged is a series of disarming non sequiturs and off-beat dialogue. Prisoners riot over the lack of new Game of Thrones stories. A man in a bear suit delivers a package in the woods. Not all of these elements work: Katherine Waterston’s roaming doctor is underdevloped and feels tacked on as a love interest, while Seth MacFarlane’s British Max Chilblain is as ridiculous as his name.
Where LOGAN LUCKY ultimately falters is in the final act, the traditional point in which all the clever-clever elements of a heist film come together. There is some kind of magic ingredient missing from the wind-down, with a new subplot featuring Hilary Swank as Special Agent Sarah Grayson complicating the narrative without adding anything especially necessary. Even so, there’s a lot to love about Soderbergh’s joyous return to feature films after a brief experiment with retiring, even if that’s just getting to watch a bunch of fine character actors doing what they do best.