It’s been a good summer for heist films. Hot on the wheels of Baby Driver, Logan Lucky offers a refreshing parody of the genre it occupies, which is certainly interesting considering Soderberg himself established the modern heist flick formula by creating the Ocean’s trilogy over a decade ago. That’s right, the director subverts a genre that he himself established. That’d be like if the creator of Star Trek also did Galaxy Quest. The tried and true requisites are all there: from the deliberate breadcrumbing of discrete clues that payoff at the end like a Rube-Goldberg machine to the cookie-cutter archetypes recruited to crack an impenetrable vault—all set against the backdrop of a groovy, eccentric soundtrack. What sets Logan Lucky apart are the cheeky redneck caricatures that create bizarre character interactions and scenarios that are absurd, but endearingly over the top.
Before I start gushing about this film I need to highlight Daniel Craig’s exceptional performance. To see a guy who’s been James freakin’ Bond playing a hardened inmate hick is a pure joy. With killer lines like, “I’m gettin’ nekkid. No peeking!” reeled off in a heavy southern drawl–that’s sort of the theme of the entire movie. It respects the viewer enough to know that the audience knows all of the tropes and expectations that come with a heist film. It sets them up like a conveyor belt of T-balls and repeatedly subverts them over and over with home run comedic moments and slam dunk satire.
If you’re not familiar with the plot of this movie, here’s the metacritic synopsis: “Trying to reverse a family curse, brothers Jimmy (Channing Tatum) and Clyde Logan (Adam Driver) set out to execute an elaborate robbery during the legendary Coca-Cola 600 race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.”
Besides being a parody of its own genre, the movie satirizes both children’s pageants and southern redneck culture. It’s not heavily politicizing or criticizing them in big ways–it’s more of a lighthearted jab at how extreme and ridiculous these situations can get.
The music selection was decent. I wish David Holmes had returned to offer us more of what was the icing on the cake for the Oceans’ films–the score. Holmes does return for one song but the rest of it is a collection of artists along the lines of John Denver, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and other classic rock and country that really conveys an authentic southern vibe, but not really my cup of tea.
The comedy in the film isn’t non-stop laughs, but there’s a perpetually playful tone that injects levity throughout it. When the laughs do come though, the highs are very high. There’s pop culture references as well, with a hilarious bit where violent prisoners stop a coup to legitimately argue about Game of Thrones trivia.
So that’s the non-spoiler stuff. I’m now going to spoil this movie and Baby Driver, so carry on at your own discretion.
The one major gripe I had with the film though was its length, and in particular–what it decided to do with the extra time it luxuruated in. The heist was signed, sealed, and delivered at the 90-minute mark but the film went on for what felt like another 20 minutes after that. I saw a group next to me facepalm and glance at their watches as if to say, “The heist is over, how much longer is this movie?” The extra time introduced brand new characters and dealt with the legal ramifications and investigative work that occurred in the wake of the job. It felt pretty shoehorned in.
Now, I’ve heard folks say the purpose of that sequence is to preemptively stave off cynics who’d dismiss the movie due to it taking place in the modern information age with forensics and surveillance. A heist of this magnitude wouldn’t just become a cold case and end scott-free without consequence. But I don’t think the viewer needs to be exposed to the minutiae of the aftermath. That’s like getting a gift for someone on their birthday, but instead of saying “Here you go, enjoy”, you also show them the receipt, explain how you went to the store to get it, that the traffic was particularly bad that day, you got lost in the store, found it on sale, et cetera, ad nauseum. We don’t need to be shown all of the seams. Baby Driver had a similar, albeit much shorter epilogue feel-y scene that wrapped it all up; however, this one felt like a Family Guy gag. It’s deliberately extraneous enough to cross from good into annoying. Which is somewhat fitting considering Seth Macfarlane made a surprise appearance. I don’t go to heist films for the realism; I go for the spectacle.
To wrap up I’ll say that Logan Lucky joins the Ocean’s trilogy, Inside Man, and Baby Driver in the upper strata of the modern heist film genre. Plainly and simply put: it’s a blast and a half to watch. It’s a must-see for fans of heist movies and I’d even recommend it to folks who aren’t, but would enjoy a fun, decently-knit comedy with many recognizable faces in roles you typically wouldn’t see them in.