Ocean’s eleventy

Logan Lucky is stupid smart

A stealthy-smart script buoys a cliche-based heist movie — this is one kind and clever crowd-pleaser.

Made from basic ingredients and far from nutritionally substantive, Logan Lucky is a heaping helping of gooey mac and cheese cooked by Michelin-rated chefs. Writer Rebecca Blunt and director Steven Soderbergh dared to finally answer the long-pondered question: “What if Ocean’s 11 had 1,000 percent more camouflage pants?” The answer is a clever AF rural riff on a slick urban heist movie that goes so far out of its way to be good and kind that President Trump has likely already tweeted something nasty about it.

Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) is a former football phenom barely making ends meet as a construction worker. His brother, Clyde (Adam Driver), is an amputee veteran slinging drinks at a dive bar. The two decide to buddy up with local explosive enthusiast and current prison inmate Joe Bang (Daniel Craig) to rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway during the Coca-Cola 600, which is a NASCAR race and also how many grams of sugar are in each swallow of soda.

With the help of the Logan sister, Mellie (Riley Keough), a ragtag bunch of pilferers try to buck the family’s luck, despite interference from a smarmy rich dude (Seth MacFarlane) and pursuit by a determined FBI Agent (Hillary Swank). Logan Lucky features the most pleasant prison riot ever filmed, a children’s beauty pageant that will make you cry for reasons other than the sexualization of young girls and, most satisfyingly, Seth MacFarlane being punched in the face multiple times.

Blunt’s script is stealthy smart, using stereotypes surrounding Southern drawls as its narrative twist. The “big reveal” isn’t a hidden plot surprise so much as it’s that the participants are all far more competent, capable and caring than ever expected. Although much of real-life rural America has repeatedly and recently revealed itself to be possessed of some ugly bigotry, Logan Lucky celebrates its astonishing communality, a virtuous trait too commonly absent from “big city living.” To be clear, this isn’t a film that fetishizes the “values of blue collar America” so much as it simply finds the good in all parties and locations involved, even inside a maximum-security prison.

Saying nice things about Soderbergh seems so perfunctory that going hyperbolic seems the only way out. Few directors have ever shown themselves capable of acing material that’s as at home in arthouses as it is in megaplexes. So too does praise for Tatum seem oddly repetitive these days. At some point, the guy from Step Up 2: The Streets became a sophisticated actor capable of making audiences tear up at his reaction to an off-key rendition of “Take Me Home, Country Roads.”

So maybe it’s best to hype Blunt, a first-time screenwriter who is inexplicably in the midst of a weird non-controversy. Somehow, the rumor was started that she doesn’t exist, and that the true screenwriter is Soderbergh’s wife, Jules Asner, comedian John Henson or Soderbergh himself, who has vehemently and passionately chastised dolts who can’t seem to accept that a woman they don’t know wrote a brilliant script. Given that Logan Lucky’s nuanced and deft screenplay is the real star of the show, here’s hoping this is the start of a long filmography that Blunt can use to bludgeon latently misogynistic nonbelievers.

This review previously appeared in The Reader of Omaha, Nebraska.

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