There were two major, mainstream heist movies released summer 2017: Logan Lucky is the one you should see.
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Release Date: August 18, 2017
I’m not reviewing the other, currently, but I’ll say that normally that sort of flash-bang, hip-music, stylistic parade of ooh-la-la is just my size. I enjoyed it. But Logan Lucky is the better film. With a stellar ensemble cast including Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Seth MacFarlane, Katie Holmes, Riley Keough, Sebastian Stan, Hilary Swank, and Daniel Craig you’ve got nerd favorites from just about every realm imaginable (dance movies, rom-coms, chick flicks, Star Wars, comedy, the Marvel cinematic universe, serious acting school, and James Bond. Not only that, but it turns out Channing Tatum can act like a mofo—who knew! Not to knock the man; 21 Jump Street, 22 Jump Street, Haywire (he demonstrates some chops here too, in limited time—another team-up with Steven Soderbergh, fyi), and Magic Mike XXL are all great, but you’ve never seen this much range before, or real emotional resonance.
When Tatum plays a sand-hog-esq, down-on-his-luck, divorced father just trying to get by and be there for his young daughter, you believe it all, including that life is just not cutting this dude a single break. There’s a parallel with Tatum’s character and one from a series of fantasy novels, The Wheel of Time, wherein a blacksmith turned worldy adventurer is often judged by his size (large) and speed of action and speech (slow). People presume him to be just that. Tatum brings this thoughtful giant to life wonderfully in Logan Lucky, to the point where I was taken in by the act and had decided his brother (Driver) was the thinker of the two. Well, wait and see.
Set in West Virginia, Logan Lucky seems an unlikely heist vehicle (at one time, it was titled Hillbilly Heist). Yes, Soderbergh is a well-known purveyor of heist escapades, culminating in his directorial work on the Ocean’s series (something this film exudes at many turns—it wasn’t until after viewing that I knew who directed it, and I had remarked how much it reminded me of the series—not a bad thing). But West Virginia, southern accents, guys in camo and coveralls, child beauty pageants and NASCAR don’t screem the sophistication audiences have come to expect from heist movies. It’s not sexy. It’s not glamorous. But it smacks of reality, of people and a way of life that deliver nothing but acceptance for get-rich-quick schemes as the only means of ever getting ahead and breaking the cycle of life kicking the shit out of you with circumstances beyond your control.
Take life by the hair like a hilariously styled MacFarlane, and pummel it’s smug face into the proverbial bar. MacFarlane was hilarious in this, as an aside. Much like co-funny-man (I guess?) Daniel Craig as Joe Bang, unexplained master of all things explosive and pyrotechnic. Talk about not your usual heist movie. Craig defines suave throughout the canon of his work—this might be his most unlike his movie self you’ve ever seen. That alone would earn a careful viewing, normally. But combined with this thoughtful approach at making off with a boatload of someone else’s money, that’s delivered with enough character study and bursts of humor to keep you engaged thoroughly throughout.
Refreshingly, the entire plot is pulled off with a few punches and nothing worse. Sure, some prison guards are held hostage, but no one gets hurt! Compare this with the mindless sociopath behavior prevalent throughout Baby Driver, and it was a pleasant stroll on the beach. A great summer movie. Don’t’ think too hard, sit back, enjoy the laughs, clever twists, and don’t feel a need to feel queasy once. If I’d been served a margarita I don’t think I could have been any happier watching the film.
There are plot point and loose threads that I didn’t bother to pull on. First time screenwriter Rebecca Blunt did a good job of crafting an enjoyable tale and I expect will deliver bigger and better as she gains experience. But she’s already good enough, and that’s what matters.