**1/2 (out of four)
DIRECTED BY Steven Soderbergh
STARS Channing Tatum, Adam Driver
- Adam Driver, Daniel Craig and Channing Tatum in Logan Lucky (Photo: Bleecker Street)
A particularly priceless moment in cinema can be found in 1982’s 48 Hrs., when the street-smart crook played by Eddie Murphy (in his film debut, no less) saunters into a bar filled with racist rednecks and barks, “I’ve never seen so many backwards-ass country fucks in my life!” While that quip can be applied to many real-world instances (Trump rallies, for example), it gets reclaimed for the screen by Logan Lucky, Steven Soderbergh’s first film as director since his ersatz retirement following 2013’s Behind the Candelabra. Logan Lucky is a movie filled with so many Southern-fried yahoos, it makes the characters in Smokey and the Bandit look as cultured as those in Howards End by comparison.
Soderbergh, who was responsible for those largely middling Ocean’s flicks starring George Clooney and Brad Pitt, returns to the scene of the same type of crime with his latest effort, which similarly follows the planning and execution of a major heist. In this case, the seemingly impossible robbery is being attempted by a band of down-and-outers, among them siblings Jimmy, Clyde and Mellie Logan (Channing Tatum, Adam Driver and Riley Keough) and a loopy con named Joe Bang (Daniel Craig). Their target? The NASCAR coffers at Charlotte Motor Speedway, filled to the brim during the Coca-Cola 600 over Memorial Day Weekend.
Those locals who lamented that 1990’s Days of Thunder transposed the word “Charlotte” over an image of a good ol' boy drinking out of a Mason jar while standing in front of a dilapidated barn will be further disheartened with the representation here. There are precious few characters who don’t look and sound like they just got back from molesting Ned Beatty alongside the Georgia river – one of the few exceptions is an arrogant British race car driver played unconvincingly by Seth MacFarlane. The script by Rebecca Blunt (suspected by many to be a pseudonym for Soderbergh, who often employs fake names while working in other capacities on his films) veers between treating these characters with care and treating them with condescension – that’s probably the proper way to frame these types of folks who more often than not mean well but idiotically vote against their own best interests again and again, but it leads to too many passages buckled by an overbearing affectedness.
Indeed, Logan Lucky isn’t that much different from last year’s Masterminds, which suffered horrible reviews while this one is being overpraised in some circles. Honestly, the difference between the pair isn’t that pronounced, although this one definitely comes out on top thanks to a solid second half (due to some satisfying plot intricacies) and some sharper performances. Tatum is especially fun to watch as Jimmy Logan, although it’s Craig who most holds our attention as the live-wire Joe Bang. I won’t reveal whether the outlaws successfully pull off the heist, but let it be known that Craig easily steals the film.