West Virginia family man Jimmy Logan teams up with his one-armed brother Clyde and sister Mellie to steal money from the Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina. Jimmy also recruits demolition expert Joe Bang to help them break into the track’s underground system. Complications arise when a mix-up forces the crew to pull off the heist during a popular NASCAR race while also trying to dodge a relentless FBI agent.
After a brief retirement, Academy Award-winning director Steven Soderbergh is back with a new heist comedy that mirrors his Ocean’s trilogy but with more prosthetic arms. Soderbergh has always been recognized as an influential director known for breaking new ground with his projects. Here he sets aside the thriller genre and instead makes a heist comedy with the Coca-Cola 600 race at Charlotte Motor Speedway as the backdrop. The film has an all star cast which includes some familiar faces going all in on their wacky characters.
Logan Lucky is at its best when Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, and Daniel Craig are on screen. Both the Logan and Bang clan are full of likeable losers, despite not being the most intelligent these goofballs manage to bring hillbilly humor that is sure to entertain audiences. For a good 90 minutes or so it’s a quality watch but as the film progresses it starts to lose momentum. Just as the film seems like it’s going to conclude it adds another character to the fold, setting up stakes that should have been introduced much earlier. For a lot of the film there is no threat to the lead characters, they seamlessly execute their mission with little resistance. The heist below the racetrack isn’t very memorable but the charisma of the leads help to salvage the story.
The film has an impressive cast which for the most part deliver great performances with the exception of a few that come and go without adding much to the story. Some roles are slightly bigger than a cameo but still small enough that they seem unnecessary. These characters take our attention off the main story while bringing nothing to the table and serving more as a distraction. Unlike most of Soderbergh’s work, Logan Lucky is a simple premise that relies on the star power to carry it across the finish line. It seems much longer than its two hour runtime due to the multiple attempts at ending the film in the third act.
The most notable performance of the film has to be Daniel Craig as Joe Bang, an incarcerated criminal who helps the Logan brothers pull off the hillbilly heist. In the last decade we haven’t seen Craig do much outside of the Bond franchise and here he looks like he’s having a blast with his bleach blonde hair and exaggerated southern accent. Channing Tatum and Adam Driver are both stellar in the film as they play off each other well. Driver’s prosthetic arm serves as the butt end of a few jokes while managing to never get repetitive. Riley Keough, Katie Holmes, Jack Quaid, and Katherine Waterston all do fine work in their supporting roles.
With the talent in front and behind the camera Logan Lucky had a chance to be a surprise summer hit, unfortunately it settles on being nothing more than just ok. If the film was more entertaining and had a consistent pace we’d be able to ignore the rather simple setup. Soderbergh manages to get great performances but the issue ends up being quantity over quality as characters come and go without serving much purpose.
Using a NASCAR race as a location to pull off a heist is a unique idea but besides the occasional shot, it’s not emphasized enough to establish a meaningful setting. The films antagonist should have been introduced much earlier to provoke a sense of urgency from either the characters or the audience. Instead she’s shoehorned into the third act which is like watching paint dry. It’s frustrating to consider the ‘what ifs’ when you have a director of Soderbergh’s caliber making the film. Without a doubt the film looked like a blast to make and a director like Soderbergh deserves to sit back and make a film like this once in awhile. Despite its issues, Logan Lucky is still a relatively satisfying watch thanks to the actors commitment to their characters. It’s not every day you see Daniel Craig go from suave secret agent to a kooky Cajun criminal.