Movie Review - Logan Lucky

Some have called this film a redneck Ocean's Eleven, which is an accurate description. The question becomes whatever problem that made Steven Soderbergh abandon Hollywood, what is it about this that made him end that so-called retirement? This film is basically a remake of a remake. Instead of Las Vegas, it's set in Charlotte, North Carolina. Instead of a casino, its target is a NASCAR race track. Instead of a diverse cast, it's all white people. It's littered with all kinds of iconography to appeal to southern white, Trump voters. The only black faces are ones in prison. At one point, a R&B song by a black artist is invoked and what could have been cultural appropriation ends up as cultural dismissal.

The film opens in Boone County, West Virginia, which is 98-percent white, so the color of the cast isn't illogical. A good chunk does take place in Charlotte, which is 35-percent black. For that, all we get is one security guard at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. At one point, the characters are called hillbilly and that term through the past century has referred to a particular kind of white person in the Appalachian area.

Yet, it's a stereotype and Soderbergh's aim here might be in certain ways to subvert that stereotype. One such quality in that stereotype is that so-called rednecks and hillbillies are dumb or stupid. However, subverting that stereotype the way that he does in this film is a double-edge sword. Essentially, a West Virginia family of three siblings concoct a complicated plan to steal tons of cash from Charlotte Motor Speedway. One can bask in how clever these siblings are, but one might also ask if they're so clever as to concoct an illegal plan, a crime, then why can't they be clever enough to concoct a legal plan or some non-criminal way to make cash?

I'm not sure the movie sets up properly why this crime even needed to happen. It's not as if their lives are so terrible. Yes, they're poor but so what? Yes, Channing Tatum who plays the eldest sibling, Jimmy Logan, does lose his job and his daughter's mother is moving their daughter out of state, but it never feels like as desperate enough a situation to warrant this huge of a heist. In Ocean's Eleven, the characters were all career criminals, so there was not much motivation needed. Here, that doesn't seem to be the case.

Adam Driver (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) plays Clyde Logan, the brother to Jimmy who lost part of his forearm in the war in Iraq. He's a 30-something veteran who now works at a bar. Apparently, he went to jail as a juvenile, but that's not the same as being a career criminal. One can infer that he's had issues having only one arm or being a veteran, but nothing like that comes through. He doesn't seem to be struggling.

Riley Keough (Mad Max: Fury Road) plays Mellie Logan, the sister to Jimmy and Clyde and there's no real back story given to her. She has her functions in the plan but we get not much more from her. She probably doesn't have the best life and her brothers promising her a lot of cash for what's mainly just driving is probably all the motivation she needs, but it doesn't make her character interesting at all.

It is perhaps not Soderbergh's goal to show another side to the so-called rednecks, to show that they can know science like Daniel Craig's Joe Bang who at one point starts writing chemical equations on a wall like he's Bill Nye or somebody. Opening that door would lead to a discussion about where these people stand on issues like climate change. Soderbergh isn't trying to satirize or mock these people per se, so avoiding a political issue like that is probably best.

Yet, it might be a little bit of a dig when Jimmy's character loses his job because he has a limp and that limp is cited as a preexisting condition. "Preexisting condition" is such a buzz word in the political debate around healthcare and the so-called Obamacare. West Virginia is a red state that voted for Trump, so that state is probably with the Republicans on repealing Obamacare, which would mean people with preexisting conditions would lose their protections. For Soderbergh to show such an example with Jimmy has to be purposeful.

Ultimately though, it's just a tiny dig. This isn't a satire of these people or what they're doing. If anything, it's more a celebration of these people, which is fine. The problem is Soderbergh is celebrating criminals. It's one thing if it's a Robin Hood situation or if it's oppressed people getting comeuppance or them going against something or someone corrupt as was the case in Ocean's Eleven, and the recent Oscar-nominated Hell or High Water, but that's not so here. Here, they're just thieves being thieves.

It's a thin frame for Soderbergh to have fun with quirky characters. He also gets to play with what otherwise is a clever heist. The heist though is less impressive as what is a prison escape and ironically a prison return. It's a very well thought-out plan to get two convicts free from a prison and then back into prison without anyone realizing it. It's fun and funny to watch. It's more a spoof of prison culture, but the movie doesn't spend enough time to make it substantial.

Rated PG-13 for language like crude comments.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 59 mins.

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