Logan Lucky ***1/2

Logan Lucky ***1/2
Logan Lucky ***1/2
Logan Lucky ***1/2

Logan Lucky ***1/2
Bryan Miller

Logan Lucky is an ideal summer movie.

Not in the sense that it’s a blockbuster cash-cow, franchiseable and spinoffable and prequel-ready. It’s neither a showcase for innovative computer effects nor for a star de jour (though it has a couple of those).

Logan Lucky is an ideal summer movie because, like a summer day, it’s easygoing, unhurried, and thoroughly enjoyable. To call it one of those most underrated movies of the year might be a slight overstatement for anything so purposefully inessential. Yet the chilly box office reception for this hard-to-market but easy-to-watch caper flick is thoroughly undeserved.

Then again, bad luck is what Logan Lucky is all about.

The Logan family is cursed. At least according to younger brother Clyde (Adam Driver), a soulful, soft-spoken bartender who lost his right arm on his way home from Iraq, and who mournfully recounts the clan’s tragic history of lost opportunities and misplaced lottery tickets. His brother Jimmy (Channing Tatum) can hardly disagree after losing his latest construction job and learning that his ex-wife Bobbie Jo (Katie Holmes) plans to move their daughter (Farrah Mackenzie) across state lines, out of West Virginia.

Jimmy hatches a plan to change the Logan luck. He enlists a not-so-crackerjack team of crackers to help him rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina during a NASCAR race. The crew includes incarcerated demolition specialist Joe Bang (Daniel Craig), Joe’s dopey brothers (Jack Quaid and Brian Gleeson), and a whole cellblock full of inmates eager to irritate their dimly sadistic warden (Dwight Yoakam).

A background joke makes a winking mention to this hillbilly heist as “Ocean’s 7-11.” It’s especially self-referential given that Logan Lucky director Steven Soderbergh also helmed all three Oceans films. And it’s not an inaccurate characterization.

But Logan Lucky has just as much if not more in common with Out of Sight, an earlier Soderbergh adaptation also starring George Clooney. Oceans Eleven was like a movie version of a travel brochure, cool but too slick to have any texture. Like Out of Sight, Logan Lucky balances giddy frivolity with just enough character-driven drama to give it heft. Elmore Leonard would approve.

The ensemble cast is aces from top to bottom, led by Tatum and Driver. Daniel Craig, freed from the responsibilities of a starring role, is able to showcase a sense of humor he only gets to imply in smirks as Bond. His Southern accent is spotty as hell, but his icy eyes and brute physicality make his turn as the nice-guy bomber all the funnier.

For all of Logan Lucky’s starpower—including a fun late appearance from the tag team of Hillary Swank and Macon Blair—the movie’s secret MVP is Riley Keough, aka Elvis’ granddaughter, as sister Mellie Logan. She’s a dazzlingly tacky beauty shop tart with a whole movie’s worth of character hidden just beneath her day-glo surface. Mellie is the steeliest, most reliable Logan—not to mention the fastest driver—and Keough plays her as a plucky realist whose permanent smile isn’t an indicator of naiveté but resilience.

Soderbergh has too much affection for his characters to mock them, although the first half hour of the movie plays uncomfortably like Hicksploitation. It’s not any one particular element of the movie that seems like mean-spirited caricature, but the combination threatens to overwhelm. Channing Tatum’s wearing overalls to the beauty shop to meet his child pageant-queen daughter before robbing a NASCAR race is one, maybe two Southern clichés too many.

The hyper-intellectual Soderbergh is a Southern boy himself, though. And while parts of the movie play like a sophisticate’s semi-romanticized fantasies of what rural folk must be like, he gets enough of the details right that it’s hard to argue.

This isn’t satire, it’s silliness. The relative lack of consequences is no mistake, it’s by design. Anyone suffering through 2017 knows plenty about consequences. Logan Lucky is a couple of breezy hours where consequences be damned.