A detectable undercurrent of economic desperation runs through the veins of Logan Lucky, an otherwise rompish ensemble comedy about a troupe of ne'er-do-wells whose dumb luck guides them through robbery and crime. Everything and everyone here is likable, the film's tone is goofy and laid-back, yet the screenplay by Rebecca Blunt (whose identity might actually be that of director Steven Soderbergh, his wife Jules Asner, or someone else entirely) is so precisely plotted that the joy of the puzzle is seeing all of its pieces assembled over two, infectiously entertaining hours.
Another part of the film's joy is in its ensemble cast, which is filled to the brim with actors who, with one glaring exception, operate seamlessly as a group. In the foreground are the Logan siblings: Jimmy (Channing Tatum) is a contractor who has just lost his job to an insurance liability, Clyde (Adam Driver) is a bartender who lost half his arm in combat, and Mellie (Riley Keough) is a hairdresser and veteran lover of all things vehicular. Jimmy needs the money to fight back against the custody rights to his daughter (played by an adorable Farrah Mackenzie, avoiding precociousness) after her mother (played by Katie Holmes) heads south with her new husband (played by David Denman).
Their plan starts out as a simple one: They will rob the local motor speedway during a NASCAR race in which the uppity British driver Max Chilblain (Seth MacFarlane, the aforementioned exception to the otherwise-sterling cast in a bizarre performance that never gels) and the oddly spiritual Dayton White (Sebastian Stan) are set to rival each other. This involves breaking out of jail the legendary explosives expert Joe Bang (a pitch-perfect Daniel Craig, receiving an amusing "introducing" credit and giving a performance of carefully calibrated wackiness cut with sincerity) and thinking through every contingency imaginable.
Until a denouement that seems too heavily focused upon setting up characters for an inevitable sequel, the screenplay and Soderbergh's quick wit, light tone, and well-meaning characters are all culprits in one of the year's brightest entertainments. The energy is immediate and oddly urgent, each step in the plan as delightfully unexpected as the last, whether it be the use of gummi bears or a major plot point involving the frustration of a "Game of Thrones" fan in a hostage situation.
Those are just a pair of the delights, specifically re-worded to conceal their context, to be found in the film, which only loses some of its luster in that denouement, which also goes to great lengths to explicate and reframe exactly what we just watched. It registers less profoundly than it could have in a movie with a less effective build-up than this, which also continues Soderbergh's mastery of regional language and dialect (Characters speak in Southern colloquialisms and broken grammar that are as meticulously planned as a Mamet monologue). Logan Lucky doesn't quite stick the landing on its way to a much-anticipated sequel, but it's great fun in the getting-there.
Channing Tatum (Jimmy Logan), Adam Driver (Clyde Logan), Riley Keough (Mellie Logan), Daniel Craig (Joe Bang), Jack Quaid (Fish Bang), Brian Gleeson (Sam Bang), Seth MacFarlane (Max Chilblain), Farrah Mackenzie (Sadie Logan), Katie Holmes (Bobbie Jo Chapman), David Denman (Moody Chapman), Hilary Swank (Special Agent Grayson), Macon Blair (Special Agent Noonan), Katherine Waterston (Sylvia Harrison), Dwight Yoakam (Warden Burns).
Directed by Steven Soderbergh and written by Rebecca Blunt.
Rated PG-13 (language, crude comments).
Released on August 18, 2017.