The word around West Virginia is that Logan boys aren’t very lucky and may, in fact, be cursed. Older brother Jimmy (Channing Tatum, THE HATEFUL EIGHT) had a promising football career but an injury put that dream to bed. Today, he never seems to have two nickels to rub together, unlike his ex-wife, Bobbie Jo (Katie Holmes, BATMAN BEGINS), who is now married to a successful car dealer and living in a big, beautiful house. At least Jimmy has shared custody of their 11-year-old daughter, Sadie (Farrah Mackenzie), although the two adults disagree on what’s best for the child. Bobbie Jo would like Sadie to compete in pre-teen beauty pageants while Jimmy would rather see her be a normal kid, getting her hands dirty while helping her dad fix his car. Fortunately, Sadie is quite content having one foot in each world. Younger brother, Clyde (Adam Driver, PATERSON; SILENCE; STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS; WHILE WE’RE YOUNG; INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS; FRANCES HA), meanwhile, appears to be even less lucky than Jimmy. An Iraq War vet, he lost one of his hands to a bomb. Now, wearing a prosthetic, he tends bar at one of the local beer joints.
When Jimmy loses his construction job at the Charlotte Motor Speedway (in North Carolina) due to that injury that he failed to disclose when he was hired, and Bobbie Jo announces that she and her husband plan to move to neighbouring Virginia along with Sadie, it looks like whatever luck Jimmy had left has finally run out. Jimmy has a plan, though, to turn his fortunes around. Along with Clyde and their hairdresser sister Mellie (Riley Keough, daughter of Lisa Marie Presley), he’s going to rob the Speedway during one of their NASCAR races. To do that, though, they’ll need to recruit safecracker Joe Bang (Daniel Craig, SPECTRE) and his dim-witted brothers, Fish (Jack Quaid, THE HUNGER GAMES) and Sam (Brian Gleeson, MOTHER!). The only wrinkle in the plan, however, is that Joe is sitting in jail.
I’m sure I’m not the first person to call this film “OCEAN’S For Hillbillies” but it’s such an apt description. Aside from being a heist caper perpetrated by a bunch of hicks, the formula is reminiscent of the film, OCEAN’S ELEVEN, the 2001 remake that was also directed by Steven Soderberg. Even Soderberg himself has called this film “an anti-glam version of an Ocean’s movie”. The story is written by Rebecca Blunt, but sources in Hollywood believe that Blunt is a pseudonym for either Soderberg himself or his wife, Jules Asner. (I know Asner’s ex-husband. I should ask him what he knows about this.) It’s quite possible that Blunt is Soderberg, as the film’s cinematographer, Peter Andrews, and film editor, Mary Ann Bernard, are both his pseudonyms. Regardless of who’s really who on the production team, LOGAN LUCKY marks Soderberg’s return to the director’s chair after a self-imposed retirement that lasted four years.
LOGAN LUCKY is a highly enjoyable film with flawless cinematography, though it does lose points with its slow pacing. Perhaps that was intentional given the location — West Virginia isn’t exactly Las Vegas, after all — but the film never seems able to muster quite enough horsepower to take the checkered flag. At least Soderberg is a director who can bring out the best in all his performers and he does so here as well. Channing Tatum, who showed us in FOXCATCHER that he’s more than just a pretty face – or a pretty body – is perfectly convincing as the perennial loser who has more going on inside his head than what people around him realise. He seems to have packed on a few pounds since MAGIC MIKE XXL but it’s right for his character. As for Adam Driver, can he do anything wrong? He shows us again here why he’s one of Hollywood’s busiest actors these days. Even Katie Holmes, who may be more famous for being Tom Cruise’s ex-wife than for anything she’s ever acted in, does good work here. The wildcard, though, is Daniel Craig, who plays as far against type as he has ever been. Here he has bleached blonde hair that sets off his ice blue eyes, and tattoos from neck to knuckle (and further afield as well). Even with his hillbilly accent that admittedly wavers in and out throughout the film, he is a pleasure to watch. He is clearly trying to build a life-after-Bond movie career for himself and more power to him!
Although LUCKY LOGAN is not as good as the OCEAN’S films, it is a fair bit of fun so check it out. In addition to a few cameos by some real NASCAR drivers, keep your eyes open for one character I haven’t mentioned here. I didn’t realise who it was until the credits rolled.
Watch the review recorded on Facebook Live in RTHK Radio 4’s studio on Thursday, November 9th at 8:30 am HK time!
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