Logan Lucky was directed by Steven Soderbergh, the man behind the Ocean’s 11 films and Magic Mike. It features hilarious characters, farfetched schemes, and a leisurely pace that will take some by surprise, but like its band of robbers, it’s a film that’s easy to underestimate.
It’s no secret that Hollywood has shown little interest in bringing stories about the American South to mainstream audiences over the last decade or two, to the point where Pixar’s Cars 3 was their chief cultural representation in Summer 2017 until Logan Lucky came along, a heist film with the trappings of a tentpole that also happens to be based on an original screenplay, albeit by someone who appears to be invented, with the pseudonym “Rebecca Blunt” as their credit.
Put simply, Logan Lucky is indeed another movie about an outlandishly competent crew pulling off an impossible crime from Soderbergh, but it’s also a deconstruction of his own work, to the point where the film actually references the Ocean’s 11 movies by branding this film’s crew as “Ocean’s 7-11.” It’s one of many jokes that hits home in a film that takes aim at subverting your expectations for a fast and clean crime romp.
The big plan is to rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway during a high-profile Nascar race, conveniently where one of the characters recently lost his job and is now looking for a way to improve his sympathetic financial situation. The titular Logan siblings consist of Clyde (played by Adam Driver), an Iraq War vet who lost his arm and is now a bartender, Mellie (played by Riley Keough), a quietly dignified hairdresser, and Jimmy (played by Channing Tatum), a divorced and out-of-work dad sharing custody with his ex-wife and high school sweetheart (Katie Holmes) from when he was the quarterback until a leg injury ruined his chances of going to the NFL.
There are many other interesting and vibrant characters along the way, of course, including a high-energy Daniel Craig as Joe Bang, the demolitions expert the Logans need to break out of jail on the day of the race. For what is at times a pretty slow-paced film, the development of the heist in question is actually a bit rushed, specifically with how this major set piece is placed in the second act of the movie instead of the third. It’s an odd structural decision that does well to make Logan Lucky stand out in a frankly overcrowded genre.
Most importantly, Logan Lucky manages to be about more than hi-jinks and funny moments. There’s a wealth of heart and authenticity in this screenplay and how it treats its location, characters, and subject matter. It’s not condescending, but it’s also not pandering, and best of all, it’s pretty entertaining for a movie where most of what’s happening is impossible to believe. It’s only major flaws are in how some long stretches of the film feel quite a bit too long and meandering, which is sure to make many in the audience wonder why more of the film wasn’t cut for a leaner experience. But what we do get from Logan Lucky is plenty to chew on, regardless.