When it comes to Hollywood, a good old-fashioned heist movie never goes out of style. There is always room at the box office for an ambitious, high stakes robbery adventure. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, there is something undeniably fun about it all. Maybe it’s connected to that same fantasy that sells lottery tickets or perhaps it’s just the chance to pull for the underdog in some kind of Robin Hood-esque capacity. Whatever the case may be, there is usually a handful to choose from each year and 2017 has been no different. Logan Lucky jumps into the genre with both feet, causing a lot of waves and plenty of laughs without losing itself along the way.

I was very surprised by this film. Not so much by the fact it was good, moreso by how it got there. While the majority of the film does indeed focus on the robbery of the Coca-Cola 600, that’s not what it’s about. This is really the story of a father (Channing Tatum) looking to provide for and connect with his daughter (Farrah Mackenzie) disguised as a red-neck Ocean’s Eleven. Rebecca Blunt wrote a fantastic screenplay, which is made only more impressive by the fact that it’s her first to make it to production. When it comes to these types of films, the heist itself has to at least have the appearance that it will work and that portion of the film is actually well designed  and executed despite the seeming lack of intellect among the primary characters. With that taken care of, the dialogue and character design are really the engine which made the whole thing run. The script focuses on building the roles through irreverent, yet down to earth, dialogue unique to the setting for this story. While the result is a zany group of characters, Blunt put a great deal of heart and humility at the forefront as well.

The strength of the script attracted well rounded, talented actors and Carmen Cuba cast a strong group to bring the project to life on screen. Most notably, Adam Driver was exceptional throughout the film. His cadence and timing were pitch perfect, reminding me very much of Tim Blake Nelson’s Delmar O’Donnel from O Brother, Where Art Thou? His character, Clyde Logan, has a lot of depth as a combat wounded veteran and is an interesting other side of the coin to Tatum’s main character. While he may not be the heart of the movie, I would tend to think he’s the moral compass. From now until basically forever, he will be associated as Kylo Ren from his Star Wars role, but Driver will do himself favors in breaking that connection if he continues to sharpen his craft by selecting interesting and diverse projects such as this. So far, his performance has been one of the most memorable this year and Driver should garner some consideration as Best Supporting Actor come year’s end.

Taking the lead in this film as heist mastermind Jimmy Logan (a divorced father fighting for his daughter’s time and affection) Channing Tatum continues to lay the groundwork as a talented actor. His turn as Jody Domingre in Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight was a much needed step in the right direction for him and he’s carried that dramatic edge with him into this film. Tatum found the right balance to bring the character to life and make him someone worth cheering for. There is a strong and familiar chemistry with his daughter which really drove the point home and solidified him as the film’s hero. Playing a father, ex-husband, brother and criminal mastermind is no easy task but Tatum did a masterful job spinning all those plates and should continue to pleasantly surprise people with his dramatic capabilities moving forward in his career.

Tatum had some skilled actors to play off and Driver wasn’t the only standout supporting role as Daniel Craig was quite a bit of fun to watch as Joe Bang, a backwoods demolitions “expert” of sorts who is enlisted to assist the Logan brothers with the heist. Immediately identifiable as 007, Craig did a great job reinventing his image for this role and embodying a relentlessly entertaining madman. Once his turn as James Bond finally comes to an end, I’m curious to see where Craig’s career trajectory will take him. He was flanked on both sides by a pair of incredibly odd brothers Sam and Fish, played by Brian Gleeson and Jack Quaid respectively. The pair offer up some of the film’s funniest moments both intentionally and unintentionally. Seth MacFarlane is in the movie a surprising amount as an annoying British race team owner who is constantly acting like an asshole to his driver played by Sebastian Stan. The pair was not really relevant to the story other than injecting some humor, but there was already plenty of that without them so it just didn’t marry well.  

Steven Soderbergh brought a wealth of experience, particularly from the aforementioned Ocean’s Eleven franchise, and it translates tonally into a well executed plot with a lot of strong performances. Unfortunately, the ladies in the cast were relegated to small tertiary roles. Even Katie Holmes, who will be starring in Soderbergh’s upcoming Ocean’s Eight, plays Jimmy’s ex-wife and serves mostly as a symbol of the life that separates him from his daughter. The role itself isn’t deep or challenging and Holmes would have been a good fit for the Logan sister Mellie, but that job went to Riley Keough. She was the fun aunt and secret badass in the Logan family who leverages her position to help put the family first and complete some of the most important elements of the heist. Hilary Swank came into the film very late as an FBI agent investigating the robbery, but I almost forgot she was even in it. Her late entry was just very out of place and messed up the pace of the film. Her presence is commanding, but it felt like movie was already over by the time she showed up. Last but not least, Farrah Mackenzie shined as Sadie Logan. She’s an old soul and a very cute kid, who did more than hold her own with the dialogue. The first scene in the film is built on her ability to connect with Tatum and they hit the nail on the head which set the table for the rest of the film to succeed.

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This was a fun movie. It’s not the best film of the year, but it has a lot of performances that are fun to watch and a story that, while familiar, isn’t derivative. It has struggled at the box office so far with The Hitman’s Bodyguard winning it second straight week, but word of mouth should help since Logan Lucky is clearly the better film. The final weekend in August has seen the worst box office performance in 15 years and nothing is going to remedy that situation until It releases on September 8th. So, fortunately there may still be time for the film to make some money before then.

Recommendation: Go see this movie. It’s a good bit of fun and there isn’t much else out worth spending money on for the next few weeks. Without any real violence or sexuality, it’s family friendly although it may be too heady for younger kids to pay attention to.

Grade: B-