Film Review

Logan Lucky absolutely deserves to be seen

By Leigh Monson

   Director Steven Soderbergh, perhaps best known for directing Ocean's 11 and its sequels, in a recent interview expressed disappointment that more people didn't turn out for his latest movie Logan Lucky, a heist movie set in the rural Southern United States that feels from the ground up as if it were designed with that audience in mind. Soderbergh himself hails from the region, and his inspiration to come out of retirement to direct this film was to deliver something that would appeal to a community that doesn't often see itself accurately reflected in big screen entertainment. And yet here we are, three weeks out from nationwide release, and the film is just shy of making back its production budget; the theater I sat in for my screening was entirely empty, and I think it's necessary to do my part to spread the word that this isn't a film to sleep on. Logan Lucky is a legitimately great film that lives on its casual charm much as the Ocean's films do, but it's a more homespun charm that feels less deliberately escapist and more empathetically relatable.
   Focused on a couple of down-on-their-luck brothers, Jimmy and Clyde Logan (Channing Tatum and Adam Driver, respectively), Logan Lucky follows their journey to rob a NASCAR motor speedway when Jimmy's construction job reveals to him a relatively easy way to access the underground safe. As with any heist movie, the fun primarily resides in watching the heist unfold, seeing how our protagonists deal with unforeseen complications—such as how they have to move the robbery date up so that they must operate underneath a fully packed stadium during a race—and discovering how certain complications were actually part of the plan from the beginning as not every participating party was in on the plan to begin with. It's a really clever twist on the heist formula to have the overall plan built so consistently around people underestimating our leads' intelligence due to their redneck appearance, but the film pulls it off because Soderbergh has a clear affection and respect for the culture he's portraying.
   In fact, that's exactly what makes Logan Lucky such a gem of a film. Soderbergh smartly leaves the political beliefs of much of the region to the sidelines, instead portraying the community as consistently exploited by bureaucratic corporations too afraid of potential liabilities to give people even a chance to make a living wage and an uncaring government that only wants to protect the interests of those corporations. Clyde Logan is a veteran who lost his hand in combat, and that sacrifice is honored religiously by everyone except the film's obvious villains. So often popular culture likes to deride the American South for its issues with institutional racism and failures in their educational systems, and while those are not issues to be ignored, the basic humanity of the people living in that environment is so often caricatured that it's easy to lose sight of their plights. This is a film that unironically uses a child beauty pageant as a moment of heartfelt emotional connection; many of us may find such a sexualized display inappropriate, but the importance and emotional resonance of that event in a young girl's life is important to that community, and that's what Soderbergh communicates without judgment or commentary.
    Now, Logan Lucky isn't by any means a revolutionary film, nor is it likely to go down as one of the best of the year. However, this is a film that is likely to show up on cable in a couple years, and everyone will be kicking themselves asking how they'd missed it the first time around. Don't be one of those people. If for nothing else, it's necessary just to see Daniel Craig in one of the most comic roles of his career as the demented explosives expert Joe Bang. His is a performance you won't soon forget, and it will make you glad for the experience even if Logan Lucky isn't a love letter written specifically to you.

4/5 stars

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