Thursday, August 17, 2017

A caper movie, country style

Director Steven Soderbergh has fun with Lucky Logan, a heist movie set in West Virginia.
It's a bit of a stretch to think that anyone has been eagerly waiting to see Daniel Craig, the current James Bond, play a hillbilly safecracker from West Virginia. But Craig does just that in Steven Soderbergh's Logan Lucky, a caper movie in which a group of West Virginia rednecks stage a robbery at the Charlotte Motor Speedway during the Coca-Cola 600, a NASCAR race held on Memorial Day weekend.

Those who try to mine veins of importance from Logan Lucky, which was written by Rebecca Blunt, may find themselves straining. Logan Lucky stands as an enjoyable -- if slight -- caper comedy build around odd ball casting that creates much of the movie's appeal -- that and Soderbergh's understanding of how to freshen a formula.

An unlikely duo of Channing Tatum and Adam Driver play brothers. Tatum's Jimmy Logan is a beleaguered construction worker who loses his job for not reporting a pre-existing health condition; he has a limp. Jimmy's brother Clyde (Driver) works as a bartender despite having a prosthetic lower left arm, a souvenir from his military service in Iraq.

Jimmy would like to spend more time with his daughter after his divorce from Bobbie Jo (Katie Holmes). But Bobbie Joe and her husband (David Denman) plan to move to a swankier town, leaving Jimmy with a great need for money if he wants to maintain a relationship with his daughter (Farrah Mackenzie), a child who participates in beauty pageants.

With no legitimate prospects in sight, Jimmy uses the code word that his brother knows signals trouble. "Cauliflower."

The rest of the movie follows a pleasingly predictable pattern in which Jimmy assembles the crew he needs to pull off the heist. One of Jimmy's primary partners in crime is Joey Bang (Craig), a felon whose participation presents Jimmy with an obstacle. Joey's in jail. Jimmy contrives a scheme to get Joey out of the slammer so that he can put his larcenous plan in motion.

Jimmy's sister (Riley Keough) plays a role in pulling off a robbery that allows Soderbergh to revel in West Virginia color, sometimes in ways that seem a trifle self-conscious.

To further complicate matters, Joey insists that his participation is contingent on Jimmy involving Joey's two brothers (Jack Quaid and Brian Gleeson), a couple of guys who probably never will be mistaken for MENSA candidates.

Two additional performances are worth mention. Seth MacFarlane shows up as Max Chilblain, a British race car impresario, and Hilary Swank makes a late-picture appearance as a cop who's trying to nab the thieves.

Like many heist movies, Logan Lucky requires a healthy suspension of disbelief, and it's tough to avoid not thinking of the movie as a kind of knockoff of Soderbergh's Ocean's series, only with dirt under its fingernails.

I enjoyed Logan Lucky, even though I was seldom unaware that I was watching actors tapping into their inner rednecks. As it stands, the cast seems to be having the kind of good time that transfers to an audience.

A couple of clicks toward even more weirdness and Logan Lucky might have landed Soderbergh in Coen Brothers territory. Now that really would have been something to behold.

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