The first Rule for Robbing a Bank is: “Decide to rob a bank”.
Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) decides to rob a bank when he’s fired from his construction job and his ex-wife (Katie Holmes with a blistering fake tan) announces she and Jimmy’s daughter (Farrah Mackenzie) are moving across state lines. Jimmy lives in West Virginia, loves his daughter Sadie and John Denver, and (used to) work construction at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, fixing leaky pipes below the track. Jobless and in danger of losing what little time he’s allowed to see Sadie, he needs money.
The second Rule for Robbing a Bank is: “Have a plan”.
Jimmy’s plan is to rob the vault at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the official home of NASCAR racing. See, the vendors at the track use a series of pneumatic tubes to send cash to the vault, and Jimmy, having seen the inner workings of the underground system, knows how and when the cash is moved.
The fifth Rule for Robbing a Bank is: “Choose your partners carefully”. (These are all Jimmy’s actual rules, by the way, stuck to his refrigerator door.)
Jimmy’s first, and obvious, choice of partner is his brother Clive (Adam Driver). Clive is reluctant at first; he is obsessed with the idea of the “Logan curse”, an ill-fated miasma that surrounds the Logan family. Prime examples: Jimmy blew his knee out a few years back, forestalling a promising football career; Clive himself lost his arm in Iraq, and now sports a fetching prosthetic. Seth MacFarlane’s limey NASCAR driver remarks that together the Logan brothers almost make a whole person.
Clive eventually agrees to the plan, and he and Jimmy move on to recruiting Joe Bang (Daniel Craig), an explosion loving robber with an encyclopedic knowledge of bank (and Motor Speedway) vaults. Bang is currently in-car-cer-a-ted, but don’t worry: Jimmy and Clive have a plan to get him out.
Logan Lucky is Steven Soderbergh’s return to the kind of hip and breezy heists he perfected with his Ocean’s trilogy. It’s the sort of film in which every word out of every character’s mouth is either a witty remark, a withering comeback, or just hilariously stupid. But, where the Ocean’s films were about people who perhaps weren’t as clever as they thought they were, Logan Lucky is about people who are perhaps not as stupid as we think they are.
Jimmy is our blue-collar hero, a big, dumb galoot with a heart of gold. It’s good to see Daniel Craig having some fun after his increasingly tired James Bond schtick; Joe Bang is a peroxide-haired bundle of manic energy, and as far from 007 as you could hope to get. For my money, though, Adam Driver is the Man of the Match (or MVP for any American readers). Clive is slow-thinking and gormless, and his plodding Southern drawl makes everything he says a hoot.
Logan Lucky is effortlessly cool; Soderbergh makes this sort of fast-paced, quick-witted heist movie look easy. It’s laidback, chill, relaxed, perfectly happy to take time out for rewarding little detours like an impromptu science lesson, or a prison riot negotiation that centres around George R. R. Martin’s notoriously slow writing process.
It’s these, the little details, that make Logan Lucky so much fun. The film is, not so much a character study, but a character portrait. Or, I should say, a series of character portraits, as Soderbergh offers us snapshots of the lives of the Logan extended family and their collaborators. They’re an eccentrically fun bunch, and Logan Lucky is an eccentrically fun film.