Film review | Southern sibling heist jamboree

Teaming up with another sibling team of lowlives, the three hatch a plan to rob the legendary NASCAR racing tournament • 3/5

Slammer siblings: Channing Tatum, Riley Keough and Adam Driver are the Logan sibling trio in Steven Sodenbergh's heartfelt and witty heist flick
Slammer siblings: Channing Tatum, Riley Keough and Adam Driver are the Logan sibling trio in Steven Sodenbergh's heartfelt and witty heist flick

Destined for football superstardom in high school but crippled by an injury, now-divorced working class schmo Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) is once again slapped in the face by the supposed curse that hangs over his family’s fate after he’s also let go of his construction job, owing to health-and-safety concerns arising from the same leg injury that cut his sporting ambitions short back in the day. 

Fed up of being given the short stick in life – rubbed in his face as his social-climbing ex-wife Bobbie (Katie Holmes) enjoys full custody of their daughter Sadie (Farrah Mackenzie), with a preening car-dealing husband Moody (David Denman) not helping matters much either – Jimmy decides to go the route of foolhardy desperation in a mad ditch to secure some cash. 

Huddling up with his siblings – the one-armed war veteran bartender Clyde (Adam Driver) and no-nonsense hairdresser Mellie (Riley Keough) – Jimmy hatches a plan to rob the legendary NASCAR racing tournament during a sleepy weekday race, working on knowledge he gleans from his former day job. Teaming up with another sibling team of lowlives – led by the incarcerated and ingenious explosives expert Joe Bang (a refreshingly unhinged and unfussy Daniel Craig) – their plan to do the deed during a quiet day at the races lets them proceed with some confidence... until matters dictate that, actually, it will all have to go down during the busiest race of the entire year, or nothing.

Directed by the acclaimed Steven Sodenbergh – who’s often promised to quit the Hollywood game – Logan Lucky plays like a harmless doodle by a cinematic wunderkind: a ‘divertissement’ to pass the time, but executed by someone who, while keenly aware that their abilities make them qualified for more ‘elevated’ material, still want to prove they can entertain the masses like their more prolific and mainstream-ready counterparts. 

Not Bond: Daniel Craig
Not Bond: Daniel Craig

That said, mumbly deep-South accents may be something of a stumbling block for international audiences – us included, of course – an in fact, the explicitly localised action of the entire project – the religious adulation of Nascar, for one thing – might also prove a tad alienating on the whole. But this is also what gives Sodenbergh’s film that edge of the specific, that crucial texture, which distances it from cookie-cutter heist-actioners it may otherwise have become (when Tatum’s Jimmy makes a jab about the Fast and Furious movies, and it can’t help but land as a sly bit of meta-commentary). Sodenbergh is mining a different vein here, and is eager to shade his characters with lived-in quirkiness. So yes, this is certainly not the cool, polished glitz of Fast and Furious. But neither would it fall in line with, say, the abstract-and-meticulous screwball efforts by the Coen Brothers. Because unlike the stylistically gilded and intellectually laboured mini-masterpieces miraculously churned out by the ‘Brothers every other year, Sodenbergh is going for the heart rather than the brain. The tone is also markedly different from Sodenbergh’s slick Ocean’s Eleven franchise and its many sequels... you do get a sense that, like them, Logan Lucky was made on something of an (expensive) lark, but of course its characters hail from an entirely different class to the tuxedo’d George Clooneys and Brad Pitts that headline that other heist franchise (another bit of meta-commentary confirms this deliberate contrast: the brothers are referred to as ‘Ocean’s 7-11’ by a newscaster at one point). 

Hardly brimming with ambition or even inventiveness, Logan Lucky is a chance for Sodenbergh to demonstrate that – yet again – he’s a director more than able to beat Hollywood at its own game. Or, at the very least, match its tendency to shove filmmakers onto prefabricated franchises, or nothing at all. An often funny genre piece with texture and heart, made by someone with very little to prove but with enough skill and confidence to pull off a low key crowd-pleaser with panache and wit. 

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