After being laid off from his job at the Charlotte Motor Speedway and a fight with the loudmouth owner of a NASCAR team, Jimmy Logan gets it in his head to rob his former place of employment. And with a little help from his one-armed brother, Clyde, and a lot of luck, he might have a real shot at pulling off the perfect crime…in Logan Lucky.
ACCIDENTALLY ON PURPOSE
Logan Lucky, from director Steven Soderberg, has a habit of coming across like a big, dumb comedy about a bunch of big, dumb characters stooging their way through the robbery of a lifetime. And it has to be by design, because every character in this movie is one empty moonshine jug away from being your stereotypical hillbilly. But just like the movie itself, every character–whether it’s Channing Tatum’s Jimmy or Daniel Craig’s Joe Bang–is shockingly clever, quick-witted, and easily loved.
Now to be fair, for as clever and quick-witted and lovable it might be, Logan Lucky isn’t exactly working with a full deck.
For one, the story is a bit of a mess. The plot is fairly simple: a struggling blue-collar worker who has had one bad day too many decides robbing his old job blind is the solution to everything that ails him. But the story is intentionally this Rube Goldberg series of unrelated yet deeply connected cliches that gives Jimmy every trouble in the world prior to the heist only to then pile on even more obstacles he has to somehow overcome during the lead-in and planning of the heist itself. Jimmy isn’t just a scorned, blue-collar stiff looking for a bit of revenge. He’s also a bit of a deadbeat dad who can never make it to his little girl’s beauty pageants on time. The plan can’t just consist of robbing the speedway, it also has to involve sneaking into, out of, and then back into jail. He can’t even be motivated to commit robbery for just the simple, desperate need of money, because he also makes it personal by getting into a fight with the owner of a team that happens to be racing at the track he’s planning on robbing.
Of course, this web of unnecessary plot threads and contrivances are intended to wow the audience with how risky the robbery is. The first hour is spent watching someone layout an unnecessarily elaborate track of dominoes. And the second is spent waiting to see exactly how it all comes down. Because whether it all goes according to plan or not, it’ll be a sight to behold
But because the story consists of this jumbled ball of smaller, individual conflicts, none of them carry much of any weight. None of them have any real dramatic significance. We aren’t really given reason to care that a young, skilled worker is now jobless. We aren’t given reason to care much about a father’s strained relationship with his daughter. In fact, the relationship between Jimmy and his daughter is shockingly strong. She loves her father. She’s understanding and forgiving of Jimmy’s shortcomings. Jimmy as a character, like Logan Lucky as a movie, has a bad habit of forcing problems into existence rather than dealing with them organically. There’s simply too much to do and too little time to make you truly care about anything.
RAZZLE AND DAZZLE
In short, the movie is a lot like a magic trick. Soderberg is a magician hoping the movie’s many plots, strong performances, memorable characters, slick camera work, tight pacing, wildly over-the-top gimmick, and general playfulness will distract you from the fact that little is really happening on screen. The lady didn’t really magically teleport across the stage from one box to the other. Her twin sister was in the second box the entire time. You were just too distracted by all the pretty dancers and flashing lights to notice or care that all the magician did was open and close a couple of doors.
But the best part of all of this is that, ultimately, it somehow works. Logan Lucky‘s attempts at depth or complexity might be an illusion, but it’s a lot of fun to watch.
Now yes, those who have issue sitting back and enjoying the big, flashy show–specifically those who are intent on figuring out how the trick is done–will also likely find little to enjoy about Logan Lucky. It’s just too shallow and unoriginal at its core to keep such movie watchers engaged for very long. There are better heist movies. There are funnier comedies with funnier casts. There are better dramas about a struggling working man getting back at a world that wronged him. There are a million ways to dress up pulling a rabbit out of a hat, but it’s still an old trick. And, yes, Logan Lucky is yet another heist movie with colorful characters and an overly complicated ploy.
That all said, just like how anyone can learn to razzle and dazzle their way through the old rabbit in a hat trick, it’s Soderberg’s unique style and sense of humor that makes it all click, makes it all pop. It’s these particular colorful characters played by these colorful performers that breath life into a tired, beaten horse of a concept.
Channing Tatum is charming and lovable, though a bit too dialed back in his role as the more serious, level-headed Jimmy. But Adam Driver is simply hypnotic as Jimmy’s brother, Clyde. His deadpan delivery is something that borders between subtle and secretly manic. And Daniel Craig is a lovable cartoon character who is half crazed hillbilly and half mad scientist. It’s almost like watching a Three Stooges short, except this time they’re all secretly geniuses and Curly has a strange love for blowing things up.
And while the many, many pieces predictably fall into place, Soderberg keeps it chugging ahead without slowing down long enough for most people to notice. What should be an obvious series of post marks the movie is planning to hit down the way instead feels like a random assortment of absurd twists and turns that accidentally pay off by the end. Again, you might know the lovely assistant is going to go in the box, that she’s going to pretend like the other box is empty, that her sister is waiting for her cue on the other side. But just when you thought you had it all figured out, just when you thought you had all the answers, Daniel Craig shows up with bleached-blond hair, a thick, silly southern accent, and a crazy look in his eye. Because sometimes classic misdirection is all you really need to let yourself have a good time.
Logan Lucky is every bit as charming and lovable and fun as it is unoriginal, predictable, and dumb. It’s characters are as memorable as it they are two-dimensional caricatures. And while there’s very good reasons for some to skip this movie, there’s an equal amount of reasons why you should CHILL with Logan Lucky the first chance you get.