Movie Review: Logan Lucky (2017)
The opening has charm. Channing Tatum plays Jimmy Logan, of the West Virginia Logan clan, a grizzled, former high school football star working on the engine of his truck while bantering with his young daughter Sadie (Farrah Mackenzie) about an upcoming beauty pageant she'll be in and the John Denver song he loves: “Country Roads” with its paean to his home state. As he’s finishing, he asks to see her guns and she makes muscles and kisses one of them like a Schwarzenegger wannabe. Who’s not going to smile at that? It’s sweet and feels real.
The movie lost some of its charm, sadly, with two casting miscues.
Stevie Two Tones
After Jimmy loses his construction job at a NASCAR track in North Carolina, he visits his brother, Clyde (Adam Driver), an Iraq War vet who lost his arm and makes do with a prosthetic as he mixes drinks at the Duck Tape bar. I love Driver but here his West Virginia/Southern accent fades in and out like a radio with bad reception. Sometimes it sounds normal. Sometahms he slows it da-own like he dumb or somethin’. I couldn’t figure out what he was supposed to be.
The greater miscue is casting Seth MacFarlane as asshole British race-car driver Max Chilblain. Somehow he and his posse wind up at the Duck Tape in the middle of nowhere. Then he’s a major asshole, mocking Clyde for the prosthetic limb. Leads to a fight, etc. Throughout the movie, MacFarlane is this gigantic false note in the proceedings.
But it’s not just Driver and MacFarlane. Acclaimed director Steven Soderbergh’s tone is off. Specifically, it’s two-toned. When it’s just Channing Tatum and another woman, or women, the movie feels quiet and down-to-earth and real. When the NASCAR heist comes into play, and we see not only Driver and MacFarlane but the Bang brothers (Daniel Craig, Jack Quaid and Brian Gleeson), it becomes comic and campy. The accents and characterizations go over-the-top.
The heist itself is fine. It’s smart. It took me a while to figure out all the elements—like the deal with the cake in the bank vault and the painted cockroaches. And since we care about these guys, and not at all about NASCAR, we want them to get away. Which they do. But then Jimmy, on his own, lets the authorities find the money. Joe Bang (Craig) isn’t happy about that. But by and by, he, and we, realize that that's not all the money, Jimmy kept some. If they’d managed to steal millions from NASCAR, the hunt wouldn’t have ended. This way, they stole just enough to let the authorities forget about it. With one exception: an FBI agent played by Hillary Swank. But even that loose end remains nicely loose.
Kin to the King
Question: Are Southerners tired yet of Hollywood actors playing them? I’m curious. There’s hashtag protests whenever Caucasians get cast as Asians (as there should be), and when light-skinned African-Americans are cast as dark-skinned African-Americans (well...), and when, you know, this half-British, half-Chinese guy plays an Indian; but apparently any old Brit (Craig and Gleeson here) can go Southern. Tatum, who's from Alabama, gets it right.
BTW: There’s a lot of famous offspring in this movie. Of the lesser Bang brothers, Gleeson is the son of Brendan, while Quaid is the son of Dennis and Meg Ryan. Meanwhile, the Logan sister, Mellie, is played by Riley Keough, daughter of Lisa Marie Presley and thus granddaughter to the King. Not surprisingly, she gets Southern right, too. Plus she's seriously smokin’.
I enjoyed the film enough; but a less campy tone for the heist, and for the Bangs, and some better casting elsewhere, would’ve elevated it beyond a not-bad-for-late-summer fare into something worth watching in 20 or 50 years.