‘Logan Lucky’ is a welcomed antidote to the summer’s stress

Things to do | 17 Aug, 2017 |

Did you ever make home movies for your family as a kid? Or as an adult — the refusal to stop doing so is often what turns one into a filmmaker. That sincere homemade feeling, so often eliminated by the Hollywood corporate machine, isn’t lost on accomplished director Steven Soderbergh. His newest film “Logan Lucky” practically begs you to add him to the family.

The man behind the “Ocean’s” trilogy has his fingerprints all over this movie: he was at the helm as the director, behind the camera as the cinematographer, on the cutting room floor as the editor — and he probably wrote it, seeing as the credited screenwriter ‘Rebecca Blunt’ is a completely fabricated person (seriously). With such complete creative control, no part of the film falls outside of Soderbergh’s specific vision. And what a breath of fresh air his vision is!

“Logan Lucky” is a weirdly, hilariously laid-back heist movie. Logan brothers Jimmy and Clyde (Channing Tatum and Adam Driver) plan to rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway during the biggest race of the year, for reasons too minor to drive anyone to grand theft, much less two nonchalant Southerners. But they do it anyway, with the help of explosives expert Joe Bang (Daniel Craig) and some offbeat family members.

“Logan Lucky” doesn’t take itself any more seriously than you took that description.  Soderbergh’s direction is decidedly relaxed: frequent wide shots and infrequent cuts create a lot of intentional slack. Scenes are drawn out in an almost Lynchian attempt to test your patience and give jokes room to breathe — the funniest line occurs over ten minutes after its extensive setup. Most heist movies keep you on the edge of your seat with hurried thrills; “Logan Lucky” keeps you leaning back and waiting for the next joke to land.

The result is excellently eccentric. Soderbergh subverts the genre with no obvious goal greater than putting together a fun diversion, and he succeeds. The humor is dispersed perfectly throughout, letting each odd moment get its chance to prompt big laughs. The cast of characters is full of personality: Channing Tatum channels Southern twang with a deliberate lack of self-awareness, Adam Driver brings his everyman charm from “Paterson” but with one arm, supporting actors from Sebastian Stan to Katherine Waterson shine briefly and brightly.

Even among all the talent on display, Daniel Craig steals the show by bucking every expectation of Daniel Craig we’ve been taught to have. A hick who takes childish joy in blowing stuff up is the polar opposite of James Bond, and Craig — who once said he’d rather slash his wrists than return to the 007 role — relishes this change of pace with infectious glee. Only Seth MacFarlane falters, due to his overdone British accent.

The Logan brothers’ motives are murky and the stakes feel consistently low, but it’s clear that Soderbergh knows this comes with the easygoing tone. “Logan Lucky” can’t escape feeling slight, so it doesn’t try — simple as its central family. Soderbergh never pretends this satire of and love letter to the heartland is anything but. His mindfulness that “Logan Lucky” is unlike other heist comedies (especially his own) always comes before the audience’s, so the film self-corrects anything that could be seen as an inherent flaw. Only one cliché sequence and some amateurish sound mixing issues are worth criticizing.

“Logan Lucky” is a lighthearted romp and a welcome antidote to the summer’s dour movies — smooth like butter, but with laughter instead of fat.

★★★★½   (4.5 out of 5)

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