If you know me, you know I go to the movies to have fun. Yes, film as art and as a medium can be used to enlighten and educate viewers, but one of the main reasons Hollywood and the studio system of the 30s flourished was because, as morbid as it sounds, people went to the movies to forget about their problems – i.e. The Great Depression. I use film as an escape from my everyday stresses and part of that escape is the fact that I go to the movies to have fun. With Logan Lucky (2017), that is exactly what I had at the movies – fun.
Coming out of retirement for what feels like the fourth or fifth time now, director Steven Soderbergh (mostly famous for Ocean’s Eleven (2001) but Magic Mike (2012) certainly gained him some acclaim as well) decides to take his heist movie mainstay and flips over to what feels like the opposite side of the coin. Whereas Ocean’s follows the 1% robbing a Las Vegas casino, Logan Lucky goes down to North Carolina as two brothers, Jimmy (Channing Tatum) and Clyde (Adam Driver), attempt to pull off a heist during a NASCAR race with the help of their sister Mellie (Riley Keough), convict Joe Bang (Daniel Craig), and Joe’s two brothers, Fish (Jack Quaid) and Sam (Brian Gleeson), as well.
The simplicity of Logan Lucky works to its advantage here as Jimmy and Clyde are down on their luck and need a come-up. Jimmy has been fired from his construction job and Clyde is missing an arm from his time serving in Iraq. Jimmy needs money to hire a lawyer so he can stop his ex wife Bobbie Jo (Katie Holmes) from taking their daughter to Virginia, so he does the logical thing and plans to rob a NASCAR raceway with his friends. The difference between Jimmy Logan and Danny Ocean is that there are real consequences for the former if he doesn’t get this money. With Danny, it never really feels like he won’t be okay if the heist goes south.
Rather than try to make a carbon copy of Ocean’s Eleven, Soderbergh unabashedly embraces his southern setting, and the motley crew of characters that go hand-in-hand with it, to not only poke fun at the air-headedness of these people but to let them laugh as well. The characters are all warm-hearted at their core and worth rooting for from start to finish. Daniel Craig specifically is standout in this film. Craig is near unrecognizable with his southern accent and bleached hair. Certainly the best performance of Craig’s career outside of James Bond, and he is officially on my wish list for Oscar love this Awards Season.
Some may argue the plethora of characters can be overwhelming, but I thought Soderbergh handled it with ease. He knows how to incorporate a high school sweetheart from Jimmy’s past coming into the fold without bogging down the heist. When Hilary Swank appears more than ⅔ into the story, she enhances it rather than drags it on.
It’s not so often that a director lampoons his own movie, but if Ocean’s Eleven is a fast and furious heist that never lets its foot off the gas, Logan Lucky embraces the clutch and shifts gears for something just as fun with even more heart. With nods to heist film greats such as The Killing (1956) and The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974), Soderbergh is certainly at the top of his game for a guy who seemingly found a hobby in constantly retiring.
It’s not PERFECT, but nothing ever is. If I had to critique anything, I would say that I wasn’t wowed by the cinematography, and I can’t necessarily relate to Jimmy and Clyde outside of them being brothers. But regardless, Channing Tatum and Adam Driver are worth rooting for and they come with a colorful set of supporting characters who make their mark on the movie as well. Logan Lucky is a great finale to what was, overall, an enjoyable summer blockbuster season. It’s definitely in my top 3 of the summer behind Baby Driver (2017) and War for the Planet of the Apes (2017). It warms my heart that the best films of this summer aren’t superhero films and it actually makes me hopeful for the future of blockbusters.