“Logan Lucky” is the poor man’s “Ocean’s Eleven.” Viva Las Vegas is replaced with the Charlotte Motor Speedway, George Clooney with Channing Tatum, and great with good enough.
Something in “Logan Lucky” is missing—and that’s not a spoiler as to whether Jimmy Logan (Tatum) and his brother, Clyde (Adam Driver), pull off their hillbilly heist. But with a story similar to “Ocean’s” helmed by the same director, one can’t help but suspect they’ll succeed. No risk, no reward—or, in “Logan’s” case, just not as much.
“Ocean’s Eleven” encompassed more than just some random robbery. It really was about Clooney’s Danny Ocean both stealing from a person (Terry Benedict) and stealing a person (Benedict’s girlfriend and Ocean’s ex-wife). Persons made it personal for Ocean, and audiences. The only person Logan is up against is “The Man.” And when it does finally get a face—in special agent Sarah Grayson (Hilary Swank)—it’s too little, too late.
That lack of a threat really is the biggest void in “Logan Lucky.” Otherwise, the film is quite a fun, entertaining caper, worth the ride for Daniel Craig’s character and car-changing antics alone: “I said no peekin’!” Please, peek. You’ll be glad you did.
Joe Bang (Craig) is an absolute blast—and one of the more memorable characters in recent movie memory. He’s curiously comedic as the “in-car-cer-a-ted” bomb expert whom the brothers Logan need to pull off their plan. In fact, with the help of Craig’s apparent relishing of the role, Bang’s prison subplot proves to be a bigger, more interesting thrill than the movie’s main motive. Both the Logans, and we, are lucky to have him.
As we are with Steven Soderbergh’s return to film and his own unique steal in making and marketing “Logan Lucky,” without the “help” of a major film studio. The Oscar-winner retired in 2013 over his frustration with just how much was being taken—creatively—from him and his fellow directors.
“It’s become absolutely horrible the way the people with the money decide they can fart in the kitchen, to put it bluntly,” Soderbergh told “New York” magazine in 2013. “It’s not just studios – it’s who is financing a film. I guess I don’t understand the assumption that the director is presumptively wrong about what the audience wants or needs when they are the first audience, in a way.”
Even though his own new movie somewhat struggles to connect with audiences, Soderbergh’s right. Studios seem to be increasingly averse to giving their filmmakers the needed control to execute their visions, so much so they are forcing out more daring directors (See: Disney and Edgar Wright) and spending hundreds of millions of dollars to “correct” directors’ “mistakes” (See: Warner Bros. and Zack Snyder). “Logan Lucky” cost $29 million and, for the most part, was worth every million of those pennies—far more than, say, a recent, soulless superhero ensemble that cost around half-a-billion dollars.
Although “Logan Lucky” might not have the same connective tissue with audiences as “Ocean’s Eleven,” Jimmy Logan’s relationship with his daughter (Farrah Mackenzie), ex-wife (Katie Holmes), and flicker of a past flame (Katherine Waterston) gives his story just enough heart—with Joe Bang really making it beat.
Whether it’s in Nevada or North Carolina, Soderbergh’s crime stories seem to embody their setting. “Ocean’s Eleven” is like a craps table: a lot of players with myriad bets, both of which can lead to one heck of a payoff for all involved. “Logan Lucky” is more like the NASCAR race where its theft takes place: a one-track goal with just enough of a barrier to keep the audience from fully connecting with the action.
Though “Logan Lucky” might not win the race, it manages to keep a solid, enjoyable-enough pace—while other, more mainstream movies are still stuck in the pits.
3.5 out of 5