Well, that didn’t last long. Just four years after announcing his retirement from directing, Steven Soderbergh is back. And for his encore he’s decided to dive right into his greatest hits. Logan Lucky, his first feature-length directorial effort since 2013’s Behind the Candelabra, is essentially a red-state Ocean’s Eleven — a fizzy, twisty Southern-fried heist flick that’s more enjoyable the less you try to dissect it.
Channing Tatum stars as Jimmy Logan, a quietly decent blue-collar lug who, despite the movie’s title, isn’t very lucky at all. In fact, his West Virginia family is widely believed to be jinxed. Jimmy’s promising football career was cut short by a leg injury, and his ex-wife (Katie Holmes) has custody of a daughter he clearly adores. Jimmy’s brother, Clyde (Adam Driver), lost the lower half of his arm in Iraq and now, with a prosthetic limb, slings drinks from behind a roadhouse bar. Meanwhile, their hairstylist sister, Mellie (Riley Keough), appears to have been spared from “the Logan curse,” but she’s young and there’s always time for fate to catch up with her, too.
These Logans may be born losers right out of a country & western song, but they’re scrappy, stoic emblems of red-white-and-blue resilience. They’re invisible, but also invincible. So much so that Jimmy thinks he can actually turn his luck around with an elaborate robbery of the Charlotte Motor Speedway — home of NASCAR and a license-to-print-money operation whose underground network of cash-funneling pneumatic tubes he thinks he can crack. So like George Clooney in a Charlie Daniels Band T-shirt instead of a Brioni suit, he assembles a team of comic yokels to join him and his siblings in the big score. First, there’s Daniel Craig’s “Joe Bang,” a seemingly dim demolitions expert who needs to be busted out of jail to do the job. (Craig is a hoot with his peroxide-blond buzz cut, tattoo-frescoed body, and surprisingly deep knowledge of advanced chemistry, building a bomb out of bleach and gummy bears.) Then there’s Joe’s two runty brothers, played by Jack Quaid and Brian Gleeson doing redneck riffs on Scott Caan and Casey Affleck’s bickering doofuses from Ocean’s. It’s all very familiar, but also very funny.
There’s a whiff of condescension in the film’s twangy Hee Haw-stereotype characters, but Soderbergh and screenwriter Rebecca Blunt (whose real-life identity is a bit of a parlor game) are so nimble at constructing their caper’s puzzle pieces and narrative switchbacks that you eventually just surrender and let the good times roll. Logan Lucky may not be the luxurious, precise Swiss watch that Soderbergh’s first (and best) Ocean’s film was, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun to kick back and ride shotgun with. And sometimes that’s enough. B+