Director Steven Soderbergh couldn't resist coming out of his four-year retirement from film making after reading a script from his good friend Rebecca Blunt. Known for crime caper movies a la the "Ocean's" franchise, Soderbergh has again crafted a highly entertaining and elaborate heist plot based on the rookie writer's conception, "Logan Lucky".
Blunt hails from Logan, West Virginia, hence the film's title. Logan is also the surname of the main characters, Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) and his one-armed, bartender brother, Clyde (Adam Driver).
In the opening sequences, Jimmy loses his coal mining job in West Virginia on a technicality, then promptly goes to Clyde's bar where he gets into a fight with an obnoxious racing team owner named Max Chilblain (an unrecognizable Seth MacFarlane, complete with long curly locks and a British accent).
Out of money, divorced from Bobbie Jo Chapman (Katie Holmes), and visitation rights with young daughter Sadie (Farrah Mackenzie), Jimmy concocts a scheme to rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina, NASCAR's signature venue. He's always had thoughts of robbing a bank, based on his 10-item to-do list taped to the wall in his apartment. He enlists Clyde and his sister Mellie (Riley Keough) --- she is their getaway driver --- to abet him in the theft.
However, one piece of the puzzle is missing. They need an explosives expert, and Joe Bang (Daniel Craig), currently in prison, fits the bill. The plan is to spring Bang from jail long enough to pull off the caper, and return him to prison before Warden Burns (country music star Dwight Yoakam) catches on.
It's all quite a lot of fun, exceedingly clever, and we actually cheer for the perpetrators in "Logan Lucky" . We want them to get away with the loot. Bang's goofy hillbilly brothers, Fish and Sam (Jack Quaid and Brian Gleeson) are just dumb enough to warrant our sympathy. A flaw in the script fails to mention Fish and Sam at the end of "Logan Lucky".
If based on the trailer you thought this was a race car movie, it's not. It is a heist film, and it's more semi-dramatic than a straight comedy. When Jimmy's daughter performs at a school talent show
(for some reason she is made up to look precisely like JonBenet Ramsey, a bit creepy), it's meant to be more poignant than funny.
Craig jumped at the chance to play Joe Bang, going so far as to buy his own blond hair dye from CVS, and getting a crew cut. The wardrobe people loved it, so it stuck. Craig is quite amusing with his newly adopted southern accent. As for Blunt, she approached Soderbergh hoping he could find a director to do the film, but when he decided to take on the project himself, she was naturally elated.
The other standout performance in "Logan Lucky" is Driver. The visual effects people managed to lop off his left hand and part of his arm, much like Gary Sinise's legs were "removed" in "Forrest Gump". Driver perfected his accent, and practiced making a martini with just one hand. He adds much-needed deadpan humor to the story. When his prosthetic arm is sucked up into a pneumatic tube, his reaction is priceless.
For added realism, racing icons Jeff Gordon and Darrell Waltrip have small parts. And Soderbergh brings in double Oscar-winner Hilary Swank to play Sarah Grayson, an FBI agent determined to solve the crime. "Logan Lucky" could have been a sloppy, incoherent mess in lesser hands, but Soderbergh again proves his mastery at this sort of comic crime thriller.
Opinion: See It Now!