Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) is part of the Logan family, believed to be cursed with bad luck in their local town in West Virginia. After losing his construction job and facing the prospect of his daughter Sadie (Farrah Mackenzie) moving across state, he decides to recruit his younger brother Clyde (Adam Driver), a veteran who lost his arm in Iraq and now has a prosthetic limb, to help him rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway that he was previously working under. In order to commit this heist, they recruit their sister Mellie (Riley Keogh), two local crooks Sam and Fish Bang (Brian Gleesan and Jack Quiad respectively) and their incarcerated brother Joe Bang (Daniel Craig), who they plan to break him in and out of prison to use his expertise on explosives before anybody notices.
A return to the camera for Steven Sodenbergh for the first time since 2013’s Behind the Candlabra, the maverick filmmaker takes us back both to his roots as an indie darling with a more character driven piece and his literal roots in the Deep South having grown up in various Southern states. What really works for this, however, is that it’s been a while that the underdog Southern folk, once championed in Hollywood, have really gotten the spotlight in the story. And this film does them justice-it’s insanely entertaining, combining Sodenbergh’s demure character writing with his slick Oceans 11-style sensibilities (something directly referenced in this film in a really cute way).
What make this work is that, while the stereotypes are embraced to an extent, they are not the butt of cheap laughs or easy potshots. These characters are both layered and intelligent, even the comic relief of Sam and Fish are clearly shown that these two are actually competent criminals (the few times they are made look stupid are actually plot related). Jimmy Logan is a competent and quick-witted guy even if he tends to soar beyond his talents, Clyde is the more serious-minded and paranoid of the two, even if he’ll gladly go along with his brother’s plan. Both admirably played by the always reliable Tatum and Driver.
As with the rest of the cast, Katie Holmes gives a solid performance in a minor role as Jimmy’s ex-wife Bobby Jo, Riley Keough exudes confidence and charisma as the brothers more successful but still eager to go along with the heist sister Mellie, Farrah Mackenzie is suitably adorable as Jimmy and Bobby Jo’s daughter Sadie, though never feels inauthentic. Hilary Swank has a minor but significant role later on, and it’s always great to see her pop up. However, and I know I’m preaching to the choir here, Daniel Craig utterly steals the show as the eccentric but brilliant bomb man Joe Bang. Craig is a revelation in the role, completely abandoning his James Bond suave to disappear into this character, and I’d be amazed if this doesn’t earn him an Oscar nod. I hope this is the direction his career takes once the Bond train ends.
Complaints are rather minor. The third act drags on a little too long after the film was so goddamn well paced. While the plan is slick, everything is well edited to keep it flowing and there’s even an awesome twist to it, there are one or two moments that stretch credulity on how much they rely on chance. The Game of Thrones conversation goes on too long and will date the movie. Seth MacFarlene’s character is really annoying and he gives a half-baked performance, and it’s a bit too over the top even for the silly tone played out here. Thankfully, he’s not in the movie that much.
Logan Lucky is a wonderful little movie in the current zeitgeist of modern cinema. Great homegrown heist thriller while also remaining intentionally silly, incredibly well-edited, great respect for the kinds of people it is portraying, and a career redefining performance from Craig. Be sure to get on your country roads to check it out.