Sometimes you watch a film where it’s clear that the talent, both in front of and behind the camera, had an absolute gas making it, and you wish you could join in on the fun. Not so with Logan Lucky. Yes, it’s clear that Steve Soderbergh and his note-perfect cast—including Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Riley Keough, and a priceless Daniel Craig—are having the time of their lives, but we’re right there with them. I’m not sure if I preferred Logan Lucky as a comedy or a heist film. But who cares when both parts work so harmoniously?
Tatum plays Jimmy Logan, who’s just been laid off from his job working construction under the West Virginia Motor Speedway because of a preexisting sports injury (Jimmy once had a promising football career until he blew out his knee). Meanwhile, Jimmy’s bartender kid brother, Clyde (Driver), had his arm—actually, his hand and forearm, he’s always quick to correct—blown off in Iraq. There’s a family lore that the Logans—who also include a sister, hairstylist/grease monkey Mellie (Keough)—are just plain unlucky. But that doesn’t stop Jimmy from planning an elaborate and risky heist.
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A few more things you need to know about Jimmy: He’s divorced and his ex wife (Katie Holmes) has married a rich guy with a car dealership. Jimmy has young daughter (wide-eyed Farrah Mackenzie, a pint-sized Goldie Hawn), who can casually distinguish between a flathead and Phillips screwdriver, but also participates in those Little Girl Beauty pageants, much to Jimmy’s dismay. Jimmy dotes on his daughter, loves his siblings, and even (mostly) gets along with his ex. He just needs to catch a break.
The planned heist is a complicated one—and, as with all good heist films, its layers continue to reveal themselves right until the final frames. Basically, from his days under the speedway, Jimmy knows that money is transported through underground shoots into a giant vault. The plan is to intercept the money, but to do that they’re going to need explosives expert Joe Bang (Craig), who is rather inconveniently in prison. To make the whole thing work, Clyde’s going to have to get himself imprisoned, then break Joe out of jail and get them both back before anyone notices they were gone. I won’t ruin any more of the fun, but suffice it to say, part of the plan results in a bunch of inmates hilariously grousing about how slowly George R.R. Martin has been churning the Game of Thrones books. They are us.
I can’t stress enough how brilliant Craig is as Joe. He manages to be both intimidating and courtly, a gentleman thug, and just watching him meticulously shake low-sodium salt on a boiled egg is a thing of a beauty. He should do more comedy.
Indeed, the whole cast is superb, except for a weird, broad, costume-and-accent-reliant performance by Seth MacFarlane, as a sports drink mogul who has a run-in with the brothers. He seems to have been imported in from a completely different movie. A minor quibble.
Of course, much credit should go to Rebecca Blunt’s twisty and turny script, but this is a Soderbergh film though and through (there's even a meta reference to Ocean's Eleven). On top of being hilarious and edge-of-your-seat exciting, it has obvious affection for its cast of sneaky-smart hillbillies. Remember how panicked we all were when Soderbergh said he was retiring a few years back? Thank the film gods, there’s always one last heist.