Logan Lucky – movie review

by Russell Baillie / 24 August, 2017
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Brothers Fish (Jack Quaid), Sam (Brian Gleeson) and Joe Bang (Daniel Craig).

Steven Soderbergh returns to deliver a dozy but enjoyable star-studded heist movie. 

It comes with shiny muscle cars, rusty pick-up trucks, a pre-teen beauty pageant and its stars include Elvis Presley’s granddaughter. Its most touching scene involves a certain John Denver ode to West Virginia. The punchlines to its jokes are mostly delivered in a drawl.

Yes, there is certainly something deep-fried and southern to Logan Lucky, an enjoyable if dozy romp of a heist movie that marks the return of director and American indie film pioneer Steven Soderbergh.

He’s back from a supposed retirement from film directing after his 2013 Liberace movie Behind the Candelabra. Logan Lucky also returns him to a favourite genre and to his geographical roots.

He’s done star-studded heist movies before with his Ocean’s 11, 12 and 13. And although his new film stops short of Confederate flags on car roofs, the gentle rednecks that Soderbergh brings to life here seem done out of affection.

This Ocean’s comparison is actually overheard in one scene and there are other parallels.

Instead of a Las Vegas hotel vault, a huge Nascar track in Charlotte substitutes as the symbolic all-American temple of cash that a motley crew hatch a plan to raid. But instead of rat-pack slickness and Mission: Impossible-style wizardry of the Ocean’s films, Logan Lucky has an ambling easy charm with occasional bursts of low-tech action.

Its tone veers near Coen Brothers goofball, but nothing is too forced. Which is both the film’s charm and slight undoing – its two-hour running time is a bit much for how much gas it has in the tank.

The heist is led by Logan brothers Jimmy and Clyde (Channing Tatum and Adam Driver both in good form), with help from sister Mellie (Riley Keough, daughter of Lisa Marie Presley).

Divorced father of one Jimmy has been laid off thanks to an old injury. War veteran Clyde tends bar with his one good arm. They see a chance to raid the vault that collects race fans’ beer money and recruit expert help in the form of explosives guy Joe Bang (Daniel Craig), with his low-wattage brothers along for the ride.

That Joe is incarcerated for past misdeeds may seem a hitch. It’s not. And Craig’s batty turn is the film’s best sideshow.

Less amusing is the reliably annoying Seth MacFarlane, who plays a Brit race-team sponsor in a performance that feels as if he’s escaped from Will Farrell’s Nascar comedy, Talladega Nights.

He’s a bum note in a movie that’s otherwise groovy, courtesy of Soderbergh’s regular soundtrack guy, David Holmes.

IN CINEMAS NOW

★★★1/2

This article was first published in the August 26, 2017 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

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