Steven Soderbergh is one of the great modern directors, blessed with intellect and ability to guide actors to outstanding performances. His strength with the narrative has been evident since his first film, Sex, Lies and Videotape (1989), though he truly came into his own with Out of Sight (1998), a stylish caper film with George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez; The Limey (1999), a superb revenge film with Terence Stamp; Erin Brockovich (2000) which won Julia Roberts her Oscar, and Traffic (2000) which won him his Oscar. The Oceans 11, all three of the films for me are a waste of talents, so when he goes back to making real stories, that is reason to celebrate.
‘Logan Lucky’ is a terrific black comedy, one that catches you off guard with how good it is, how funny it can be. It is best described as a southern fried heist film that works on every level, with exceptional performances, surprising performances.
Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) is a decent good ol’ boy, who is anything but lucky, in fact his whole family seems cursed. His football career was cut short by a leg injury, his nasty ex has custody of his child, his younger brother Clyde (Adam Driver) lost half his arm in Iraq, and now slings drinks in a local bar.
Laid off from his job, Jimmy is scared of where his life is going so he decides he and his little brother can rob the local Speedway, home of NASCAR, where the money is collected and shot through a series of plastic tubes he believes he can crack. But first they need to convince Joe Bang (Daniel Craig) to take part, which means busting him out of prison. He is a genius with demolitions, able to make a bomb with bleach and gummy bears (I kid you not), but he is also a first class lunatic.
With Joe Bang investment over the whole thing takes off like a Dukes of Hazzard’s car race, wildly out of control but you just know it is going to one helluva ride.
Craig steals the film as peroxide blonde hair Joe, a nut-ball who truly loves chemistry and explosives and is not afraid to say so out loud. He is loud and brash, a cartoon really, but gives the film such a jolt of electricity you cannot keep your eyes off him. Driver, one of the finest young actors at work is always exceptional, but here does not necessarily have a lot to do. Channing Tatum has quietly become one of the most surprising actors in movies, be it his tap dancing fool in a Hail Caesar (2016) or here as this redneck with a plan. Let’s be clear, these are all cartoon characters, exaggerations of what many believe the people in the south to be.
It works as comedy. It works here, beautifully. This is one of the happiest surprises of a dismal summer at the movies.