Logan Lucky (2017)

Directed by Steven Soderbergh

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Steven Soderbergh has made a heist movie before.  He’s made several, in fact, including Ocean’s Eleven and its sequels, so Logan Lucky is nothing new to him.  This movie, though, is marked by its southern-ness.  It’s so immersed in a world that doesn’t try to be anything different than our own but which can’t help but stand out.  These characters, their accents, their pageants, their tans, their stylishly torn jeans make this movie feel set in a world as far from ours as the Coen Brothers’ Fargo (assuming you don’t already live in this world).  Both movies remind you just how different two regions in the United States can be.

There are times when a character’s southern accent and image feel like a stereotype, made to work as a quick joke, but for the most part, Logan Lucky is grounded, treating its characters and their ways of life with as much respect as any character you root for in a movie.

Channing Tatum plays Jimmy Logan, and Adam Driver plays his brother, Clyde.  They’re probably not the smartest people, and they’re quick to violence, but they’re both loyal, even marked with their own physical limitation.  Jimmy has a permanent limp which gets him fired from his construction job, and Clyde lost his left hand in Iraq.

The plan to steal large sums of money from a NASCAR race comes pretty quickly to Jimmy, and it takes very little effort to convince Clyde to join in.  From the start we learn that these two brothers will always stand up for each other, they’re courageous, and they’re not too intelligent.

Jimmy and Clyde try to recruit Joe Bang (Daniel Craig), to join them, but Joe’s in prison.  He thinks their plan is ludicrous, and at this point in the story, the brothers’ plan feels like a joke.  These are characters who think they can pull something like the Ocean’s Eleven heist off, but at no point are we given any reason to think they can do it.  The characters in Ocean’s had the ability, we could tell, to do it.  The challenges for them were simply the antagonistic forces of the casino that didn’t want to be robbed.  The challenges for the Logans, it seems, are themselves.

Clyde, in the first scene we see him, reminds Jimmy about the Logan family curse, which Jimmy doesn’t believe in.  They are simply unlucky, but Clyde has no better suggestion for their misfortune than a curse.  While there doesn’t seem to be much throughout the story that offers any weight to Clyde’s suspicion, this perception of unluckiness does sort of work as a set up to the great amounts of luck they will have during the heist.

The brothers assemble a team that includes their sister, Mellie (Riley Keough), Joe and his two brothers, as well as some inadvertent help from a series of other people.  Some of these characters are people they take advantage of to get what they need, and others are simply jackasses who could (and do try to) bring them down, but their poor behavior calls into question their testimony, letting the brothers go free.

The heist takes up the middle of the movie, but it ends earlier than you’d expect.  The story tries to be about multiple things, but the “heart” of the story really just feels like a red herring.

First Jimmy seems to abandon the money and lead the police to what they stole, as if because he’s full of guilt.  Then he attends his daughter’s beauty pageant, and we’re led to believe that he had turned his back on family and is now coming back home.  But the problem is that we never saw Jimmy’s burglary plan get in the way of family.  He has been a loving father to his daughter in every scene, and though we’re told that he forgot to pick her up once, that shortcoming occurred before the heist.

This decision on Jimmy’s part, to not collect the money, seemingly puts some distance between him and his brother, and as the family seems to be at their furthest apart, it’s safe to think that this movie really is about family, and perhaps the Logan curse in some manner.

But then we find out that this was all part of the plan in one of those heist movie montages that show us everything we missed, like revealing the inner workings of a magic trick.  This implies that whatever Jimmy appeared to feel during his daughter’s pageant performance was inauthentic.

I really enjoyed this movie, and I definitely enjoyed the montage that shows us what we missed, but in another genre of movie, it might feel cheap.  As a heist movie, though, there is some expectation for a sequence like this.

Soderbergh’s movie works, at least to me, because he does a great job of creating characters we like, and he fits everything into a movie that isn’t trying to be greater than itself.  Logan Lucky sets out to be a heist movie, nothing more, and that’s exactly what it is.

There might be a message here, but I don’t think it’s all that important.  The movie just tries to have a good time, and much of that good time is derived from the characters we don’t like getting their comeuppance, which itself feels like a trope in a heist movie.

Like in any complicated heist movie, the heroes need to have a lot of good fortune go their way, but that’s how these movies work.  There are a lot of close calls and ways in which the plan goes wrong, but in the end it all goes right.  It’s not just that the heroes win, but they serve some kind of justice to the people they’re stealing from.  The idea of making the Logans unlucky serves as a way (maybe just lampshading) of explaining why their heist is so lucky.  It’s because they were overdue for their share of good fortune.

Logan Lucky takes care of its characters like in a Coen Brother movie.  The movie is funny and endearing, and maybe it’s a little cheap to have these seemingly dimwitted brothers turn out to be criminal masterminds, but you like them so much that you’re just happy to see that they won.

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