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Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017 12:04 am

Soderbergh’s Logan Lucky one of year’s best

Channing Tatum and Farrah Mackenzie in Logan Lucky.


It would be easy to dismiss Stephen Soderbergh’s Logan Lucky as a countrified Ocean’s Eleven. It does revolve around a heist; it does involve a ragtag group of misfits; it does contain its fair share of narrative switchbacks, and it does have the director’s trademark brand of sly humor. But these are only surface similarities, and while both films succeed in being criminally entertaining, there’s much more at play where Lucky is concerned. The economic disparity and the growing divide between the haves and have-nots has been one of the topics Soderbergh has circled back to time and again, and it takes center stage here as the hard-working folks at its core are working their tails off to get ahead in a system that’s rigged to make sure they never rise above their station. No wonder they turn to hair-brained schemes in an effort to try and get ahead.

As far as Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum, giving a career best performance) is concerned, if he didn’t have bad luck, he wouldn’t have any luck at all. He’s just been fired from his construction job over a trifling technicality but has a family curse to deal with as well. His potential NFL career was derailed by a college football injury and his brother Clyde (Adam Driver) lost one of his hands while serving in Iraq, but these are just the latest in a long list of litanies that have plagued their family. That Jimmy’s wife Bobbi Jo (Katie Holmes) left him and now wants to fight him over custody of their daughter Sadie (Farrah Mackenzie) isn’t so much salt in the wound as it is an expected turn of events. However, our hero has an idea, and it’s a doozy. While working with a crew beneath the Charlotte Motor Speedway, he stumbles upon the system of pneumatic tubes that are used to transfer money from concession areas to a secure vault. All he has to do is assemble a willing crew, disrupt the cash flow during NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 race, and walk away with a small fortune.

Jimmy’s accomplices are the Bang Brothers – Joe, Fish and Sam (Daniel Craig, Jack Quaid and Brian Gleeson) – the latter two being brought on board as lookouts and gophers while the eldest is an explosives expert who has the knowledge needed to blow the vault. That he happens to be serving a stretch at a local penitentiary is one of the many glitches the Logans’ must overcome. Gummy bears, cockroaches and George R.R. Martin’s case of writer’s block are just a few of the many moving parts needed to mesh together for this heist to be successful. Wisely, the script by Rebecca Blunt – assumed be a pseudonym for Soderbergh – doesn’t reveal every step of the plan to the viewer so that we may be surprised as it all unfolds.

The film is suffused with Soderbergh’s brand of sly, dry humor as well as some broad strokes that some may see as cheap shots where the characters and who they represent are concerned. After watching Fish and Sam participate in toilet seat horseshoe and pig’s feet bobbing contests, it’s hard not to argue there’s a degree of condescension towards them and modern, blue collar Southerners. Yet there’s never a question that Soderbergh sympathizes with their plight, subtly pointing out how not having health care, opportunities for higher education or industry to provide steady employment can lead to a sense of nihilism and desperation.

Logan Lucky is effortlessly entertaining and is a kind of tonic for a summer movie season that’s become a bit blah. Yet Logan’s Lucky is more than that, as it subtly delivers a modern take on the golden rule. We 99 percenters are in the same boat, and in helping each other out, whether it’s to make ends meet or help someone hold their head high, we’re helping ourselves. This message couldn’t be timelier, and Soderbergh delivers it with a sly, knowing sense that bolsters its impact.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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