Logan Lucky ★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

Even though the name of this movie is Logan Lucky, it could just as well have been called Logan UNLucky... okay, so that one was kind of lame, but just bear with me; the titular "Logan" is Channing Tatum's Jimmy Logan, a local, breakout football star in West Virginia, whose dreams of making it big in the NFL were dashed by an injury that left him with a permanent limp, a limp that leads to him losing his other, much less glamorous career of bulldozer operator, when his company's faceless, pencil-pushing "Human Resources Department" rats on him for concealing what they call a "pre-existing" condition (sound familiar?).

So, left unemployed, and with a young daughter to support (alongside an overbearing ex-wife who's about to move her across state lines, along with her new, much-better-off car dealer husband), Jimmy assembles a motley crew of country bumpkins (almost half of which comprises of his own family) in an almost laughably audacious plan to rip off the last worksite he was working for his former company, that being the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Oh, and did I mention this low-rent heist will be taking place during the Coca-Cola 600, when security will be at its maximum for what is one of the biggest annual NASCAR events in the country? So, needless to say, there are complications.

But, like with any heist movie, the inevitable hiccups in the plan are half the fun, along with the pleasure of watching the plan actually get, er, planned and Logan Lucky is no exception; after convincing his hairdresser sister, Bobbi, and bartender brother Clyde (an amputee Iraq veteran, portrayed by a surprisingly earthy, convincingly against-type Adam Driver) to join in on his bold scheme, Jimmy has to find a way to break a currently "in-car-ce-rated" expert in "demolitions", Joe Bang (played by an also convincingly against-type Daniel Craig), out of prison, get him to the Speedway to aid in the heist without getting caught, and then break him back INTO prison with no one the wiser, an absolutely ridiculous plan-within-a-plan that, of course, provides plenty of complications of its own.

Fortunately, Lucky doesn't tip its hand too much to us when it comes to playing out its ceaselessly entertaining "Ocean's 7/11"-style heist (and no, I didn't come up with that gag myself, so you can stop chuckling at me and every other reviewer who quoted that line from the movie). Director Stephen Soderbergh, making a welcome return to theaters after a four year "retirement", wisely conceals at least half what exactly is going on in Jimmy's plan at all times here, a storytelling tactic that could've been overwhelming and confusing to witness in the moment, but under Soderbergh's steady hand, it becomes half the fun of the film, whether it be witnessing the way live cockroaches (of all things) play an integral role in the heist, or the way that impersonating a firefighter figures in, or one final, unexpected twist in the job that added one last little boost to the film, and left me with a grin sitting on my face in the same way that, well, most of the the movie did, to be frank.

Admittedly, a lot of that entertainment value here arises out of the natural comic relief provided by the, let's just say, "colorful" cast of characters that Lucky boasts, a silly, bumbling collection of people that most people would describe as "rednecks"... if they were being generous. These are the kind of people who play games of super-sized "Horseshoe" with stray toilet seats, apply artificial tanner to their beauty pageant daughters with spray paint guns, who improvise explosive devices with a bag of bleach pens, low-sodium "salt", and gummy bears all mixed together... okay, so that last one was a bit unusual, but you get the picture.

All of these little details result in characters which could've easily risked becoming stereotypical caricatures of the American South as a whole, if it wasn't for the ultimate, underlying affection Soderbergh shows for them over the course of Lucky, whether it be the way he takes some time away from the main story to show Jimmy running into an old highschool sweetheart he still has feelings for (a flame he manages to send a little "present" to after the heist), or the long unspoken, long-standing inadequacy Clyde felt growing up with his star athlete brother, or the emotional climax of the film, where, upon seeing her father making a late (but still welcome) arrival at her beauty pageant, Jimmy's daughter disregards her planned performance of Rihanna's "Umbrella" in favor of an off-key, but earnestly loving acappela rendition of John Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Road", as the crowd unexpectedly joins in with her singing, and a warm smile blooms on Jimmy's face.

It's this genuine love for its characters that gives Logan Lucky just enough substance, that, along with all the laughs and high-energy, white trash heist shenanigans that end up making a pretty well-rounded experience at the cinema, and, in my opinion, THE sleeper surprise of the summer; welcome back, Mr. Soderbergh, welcome back indeed.

Final Score: 8

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