Rated PG-13 for language and some crude comments
Written by Rebecca Blunt
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Starring Channing Tatum, Daniel Craig, Adam Driver, Riley Keough, Sebastian Stan, Katie Holmes, Seth McFarlane, Katherine Waterston, Hilary Swank and more
Grade: Three stars
You know that restaurant you find yourself going out to eat at sometimes, the one that’s not quite your favorite but knows how to churn out reliably satisfying food on a regular basis? It doesn’t give you fireworks, but there’s something comforting about the familiar flavors it delivers.
If you’re a fan of Channing Tatum, the George Clooney version of “Oceans 11” or wish that you could see Adam Driver as something other than a whiny space killer, then “Logan Lucky” is the movie version of that restaurant. It’s not a masterpiece by any means, but it’s got a entertaining ridiculousness cut by some genuinely clever moments and a few healthy spoonfuls of blue-collar angst. This is “Ocean’s 11” for the NASCAR set, and though it’s a little messy it ends up being a pleasantly satisfying meal.
The movie starts with Channing Tatum, who just got fired from his construction job because of his limp, and Adam Driver as his bartender brother who lost his lower arm during the war. Tatum’s ex-wife tells him that she and the new husband are planning to move, taking Tatum’s daughter with them, and that inspires the Tatum’s character to plan a heist at the racetrack that just fired him. To do that, however, they need to get in touch with a former neighbor who’s now in prison. That, of course, is when things get complicated.
The movie has a decent amount of heist-level suspense in it, enough that I only anticipated the plot twist a little before it happened. The heist itself is also fairly clever, straightforward enough to be believably concocted by the participants but with enough layers to keep you interested until the end. It takes a little too long to get there – the first bit could have been shaved by about 10 minutes – but it's fun when we finally arrive.
There’s also a moment at the end that’s meant to leave you questioning, which I feel was actually better done than a similar moment in another Soderbergh film (if I tell you which one it is, that counts as spoilers). Since screenwriter Rebecca Blunt is suspected to be a fictitious cover name for the screenplay’s real author, it’s possible that Soderbergh himself decided to borrow his own narrative trick.
Tatum is surprisingly good as the lead brother, who’s been beaten down by life but is smarter than anyone gives him credit for. All his scenes with his daughter are wonderful, and he and Driver have a believable “I love you but sometimes I want to hit you with a baseball bat” interaction. Driver is low-key, but he has a dry absurdism that helps to counteract some of the lunacy from other characters. Riley Keough is fantastic as Mellie Logan, and I sincerely wish she’d gotten more screen time.
Of course, the movie’s biggest scene-stealer is Daniel Craig, who looked like he had a lot of fun playing his ridiculous character. It turns out Craig is also great at being goofy, and if comedy directors had any sense they’d pay more attention to him. (Of course, in this movie he also has to be just a little bit scary, which he handles excellently as well).
The supporting cast is just as interesting. Katherine Waterston glides in for a few scenes to grace the movie with her talent, while Sebastian Stan has fun with a too-brief turn as a racecar driver who takes a little while to become narratively significant. Hilary Swank is great but underused, though I feel like her character is waiting for a mythical future sequel.
If it happens, I’ll probably watch it.