Whether the rumor that screenwriter Rebecca Blunt is really a pseudonym for director Steven Soderbergh is difficult to say. Perhaps by the time you read this, someone, somewhere has unveiled the truth. But the real truth is, it doesn’t really matter; it’s a great screenplay, and it’s the backbone that makes this hillbilly heist comedy work so well. Logan Lucky is a riot, in the best sense.
Unlike the charm and sophistication of Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Eleven crowd, the characters in Logan Lucky are the polar opposite. Call them the Ocean’s 7-11; the film does. They’re the ones without the sharp clothes, the fancy technology, the money, or the health insurance. And, unlike the glam and glitz of the bars and restaurants of shiny Las Vegas, most of these characters hang out at the Duck Tape Bar & Grill.
Because of a limp that was never mentioned on his application form, down-on-his-luck divorced dad Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) loses his job filling up those pesky, underground sinkholes at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Someone in management noticed how Jimmy walked and considered it a pre-existing condition that was never declared. “They’re calling it a liability issue,” his boss tells him.
Getting fired is just one of a life-long list of unlucky events befallen both Jimmy and his slow-poke bartender brother, Clyde (Adam Driver), a man who lost his forearm while on duty in Iraq. Which is why robbing the Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina during Memorial Day weekend sounds like such a good idea.
Because of his time working behind the scenes, Jimmy knows how the speedway money moves around. There’s an old-fashioned system of pneumatic tubes that travel underground, funneling the takings into a bank vault. Jimmy knows where to go and how to get there, but he needs help. With the aid of Clyde and a third Logan, their sister Mellie (Riley Keough), the three start rounding up the accomplices.
First there’s explosives and expert safe-cracker, Joe Bang (Daniel Craig, hilarious with a blonde buzzcut and a comically raw, redneck accent). He could help them get into the vault, except for one problem: Joe is in prison with five more months to serve. When Jimmy and Clyde visit him behind bars and begin by asking how’s it going, Joe replies, “I’m sitting on this side of the table wearing a onesie, how d’you think it’s going?” But Joe is intrigued with the plan. He wants in. The idea will be to help Joe escape, get him to the speedway, blow the vault, then get him back to prison before anyone notices he ever skedaddled out of there.
Then there’s Joe’s two younger brothers, Sam Bang (Brian Gleeson) and Fish Bang (Jack Quaid) who agree to help, a deal made while attending the toilet seat-tossing contest at the local county fair. Jimmy needs someone with a knowledge of computers. “I know all the twitters,” insists Fish.
Both the elaborate escape out of prison and the complications of the robbery itself are so surprisingly sophisticated, you reach a point where you can’t believe these idiots could ever plan such a thing, let alone pull it off. But with an approach that rests heavily on timing and everything going exactly as planned (and a considerable amount of information withheld from the audience), the brothers spring Joe from prison and make their way underground to the speedway without being seen. With no time to get his hands on a stick of dynamite, Joe improvises a blast using a plastic bag, a couple of bleach pens and some gummy bears. These truly are the thieving country-fried po’ folks of Charlotte. The funny thing is, after awhile, you want them to get away with it. And if they do, hopefully it will finally break the curse of the unlucky Logans.
There’s a lot more to Logan Lucky going on, and all of it is funny in one way or another, even if you’re not quite sure why there needed to be so many extra characters. There’s Jimmy’s ex gone a little upscale, Bobbie Jo (Katie Holmes); an old friend from high-school, Sylvia (Katherine Waterston); a prison warden who refuses to let the outside world know there’s ever a problem within his complex, Warden Burns (Dwight Yoakam); a no-nonsense, straight-laced FBI agent who could easily be Joe Friday’s unknown grandchild, Special Agent Sarah Grayson (Hilary Swank, suspicious of everyone); an obnoxious London cockney racing car driver, Max Chilblain (an over-the-top Seth MacFarlane, just waiting for someone to break his nose); and several real-life recognizable NASCAR drivers, surprisingly not sitting behind a wheel at the speedway but humorously cast as state troopers, security guards, a limo driver and a deliver boy.
In many respects, the whole film feels like it’s all one big dead-pan joke, especially when during the credits there’s a disclaimer stating that during the film, no actual people were robbed of their money… except you. But no one’s being robbed here, least of all the audience. Logan Lucky is a fun time, and even though none of what you see could ever have possibly worked in the manner in which things occur, particular when planned and executed by these hee-haw heroes, like discovering the real identity of the screenwriter, it really doesn’t matter. Enjoy.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 Length: 119 Minutes Overall Rating: 8 (out of 10)