‘Logan Lucky’ gives us characters to root for

Daniel Craig, left, and Dwight Yoakam star in “Logan Lucky.” Contributed by Claudette Barius/Fingerprint Releasing/Bleecker Street via AP
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Daniel Craig, left, and Dwight Yoakam star in “Logan Lucky.” Contributed by Claudette Barius/Fingerprint Releasing/Bleecker Street via AP

If there is something wrong with “Logan Lucky,” I simply can’t find it. After a hiatus from moviemaking, Steven Soderbergh is back with a blast of pure escapist cinema.

This terrific caper film, about working-class Joes pulling off a stupendous bank robbery at a NASCAR raceway, is a textbook example of how to create an exciting and entertaining film with the right director guiding the right talents through the right screenplay. The film takes a fairly standard premise — two inexperienced brothers recruit sketchy collaborators to crack a foolproof vault — and seasons it with sophistication and lighthearted charm.

He crams almost every scene with nutty bits of business and gets some dry laughs from the honest truth. This is set in a part of the country where folks play horseshoes at county fairs by tossing toilet seats. But there’s not a bit of condescension in the movie’s tone. It’s a chance to laugh with what Jeff Foxworthy calls “the glorious absence of sophistication,” not at it.

Channing Tatum plays Jimmy Logan, a West Virginia good old boy of the kind who needs an estimate from the barber before he gets a haircut. Jimmy is divorced but devoted to his firecracker of a little daughter, Sadie (magnetic Farrah Mackenzie).

She and her mama, Bobbie Jo (Katie Holmes), have moved up to mansion living with stepdaddy, an auto dealer tycoon. Jimmy was a high school sports hero whose bum knee sidelined him from a promising pro football career. The bad leg — considered an insurance risk — even gets him dismissed from his job, tunneling for an excavation company.

As Sadie’s mom prepares to move across state lines to live near her husband’s newest dealership, Jimmy will need a major cash infusion to remain in touch. Conveniently, the last time he was employed, burrowing deep shafts to fix sinkholes beneath Charlotte Motor Speedway, he came close to the racetrack’s mega-vault.

As with Soderbergh’s “Ocean’s” trilogy, “Logan Lucky” is a bank heist procedural packed with vibrant, mostly lovable characters. Jimmy tapes up a list of best practices for bank felons, and the note “Don’t get greedy” is the standout. This is a movie without a fixed villain, and the Logans don’t want to act bad, either. They don’t kick in doors or wave weapons. Jimmy’s intricate plan is the logical equal of the speedway racing footage Soderbergh cuts into the story so thrillingly. Which way do you go next? How do you pass that barrier? Can you reach the finish line before they catch up?

The beauty of the movie is giving us characters to root for — and against — but no one to hate.


“Logan Lucky”

Grade: B+

Starring Channing Tatum, Adam Driver and Seth MacFarlane. Directed by Steven Soderbergh.

Rated PG-13 for language and some crude comments. Check listings for theaters. 1 hour, 59 minutes.

Bottom line: A bank heist done with sophistication and lighthearted charm