Review: ‘Logan Lucky’: Steven Soderbergh and His Motley Band of Thieves

By Anonymous

Review: ‘Logan Lucky’: Steven Soderbergh and His Motley Band of Thieves

Not that this movie feels in any way like a throwback. Mr. Tatum is about 10 times sexier than Burt Reynolds ever was, and about one-tenth as vain. Since his early screen appearances (in “Step Up” and “A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints”), it’s been evident that he is a singularly charismatic performer, but by now it should be clear that he’s also a great actor. I think his appeal has less to do with any supposed Everyman quality (though every man can dream, of course) than with an uncanny ability to convey irony and sincerity in the same gesture, to balance his effortless magnetism with unforced modesty.

Jimmy, once a high school football star, has not quite resigned himself to life on the short end of the stick. Laid off from a construction job in North Carolina, he returns home to discover that his ex-wife (Katie Holmes) and her car-dealer husband (David Denman) are planning to move out of West Virginia with Sadie. Jimmy’s brother, Clyde (Adam Driver), a bartender who lost a hand in Iraq, thinks the family is cursed. Jimmy doesn’t share this superstition, and in any case he has a plan, or at least a how-to list for bank robbers that he decides to adapt for new circumstances.

Like George Clooney’s Danny Ocean, he needs, first of all, to put together a crew. Starting with Clyde and their sister, Mellie (Riley Keough), Jimmy taps into another kinship network, recruiting an explosives expert named Joe Bang (Daniel Craig) and his two brothers (Jack Quaid and Brian Gleeson). That’s not quite everyone, but there are some dandy little surprises in store that I’m not inclined to spoil.

Not that the plot is anything earth-shakingly original. “Logan Lucky” sticks to the “Oceans” template so faithfully that someone makes a joke about it. Who cares? The pleasures of the heist genre are always procedural and specific. These movies are all the same, but also always different because of the particular mix of personalities and circumstances. What they celebrate, above all, is the combination of craft, planning and problem-solving ingenuity that can turn a job of work into a work of art. They are, in other words, the quintessential movie movies, reflecting the collaborative challenges and logistical triumphs of the production cycle.

For that reason, a good heist movie can settle into a sweet spot where reality and fantasy converge. This one’s narrative engine hums along nicely, occasionally accelerating into farce, usually when Mr. Craig shows up, sporting neck tattoos, spiky bleached hair and an accent that sounds like the cause or the result of a badly sprained tongue. (The dialects are all over the map, but let’s not get too hung up on authenticity.)

Mr. Soderbergh never speeds through the twists and bumps. He downshifts and pulls onto the shoulder, letting the story take care of itself while the audience enjoys the sometimes funny, sometimes fractious, sometimes wistful pleasure of the characters’ company. By the time you encounter Hilary Swank’s F.B.I. agent, or figure out that the obnoxious British energy-drink mogul who is the only truly villainous character is Seth MacFarlane, you feel like you’re a family-reunion crasher who stuck around long enough to get promoted to second cousin.

Of the three movies released this summer that self-consciously reactivate an old-school outlaw mythology — the others are Edgar Wright’s “Baby Driver” and Josh and Benny Safdie’s “Good Time” — this one has the most to say and the least to prove. Whereas the other directors aggressively promote their own coolness, flaunting borrowed attitudes and showy retrofitted styles, Mr. Soderbergh revels in squareness, and in a loose self-confidence that disguises its mastery. “Logan Lucky” is a terrific movie. That’s a matter of skill, and maybe also of luck. But mostly it’s a matter of generosity.