Logan Lucky represents the return of one Hollywood’s best directors – Steven Soderbergh. Soderbergh never really left – he directed Behind the Candelbra, a biopic about Liberace for HBO; and he directed the Showtime series The Knick. He announced in 2014 he was retiring from making feature films, but many felt that was a ruse. Some four years after his last movie, Side Effects, Soderbergh is back with a less showy, hillbilly version of Ocean’s 11. Logan seems to follow the same template – at first glance the cast, which includes Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Riley Keough, Katie Holmes, Katherine Waterston, Seth MacFarlane, Sebastian Stan, Hilary Swank and Daniel Craig, is stellar, and highlights the notion that actors want to work with the award-winning veteran director.

With the idea that Logan is another version of Ocean’s 11, there isn’t much need to explain the plot. It’s a heist film, it’s directed by (and rumored to also be written by) Soderbergh, and it boasts a big and talented cast. The obvious differences are it’s set in West Virginia (Boone County) and North Carolina (specifically Charlotte Motor Speedway). Tatum, Driver and Keough are siblings (Jimmy, Clyde and Mellie Logan, respectively) and they look to pull a job despite the idea they harbor family-wide bad luck. That bad luck rears its ugly head throughout since they bring on another set of siblings, the Bangs (Joe, Fish and Sam Bang, played by Craig, Jack Quaid and Brian Gleeson), who are dimwitted, yet smart in spots. Together they hatch a plan that is impressive and, with some humor attached, is light and fun, perfect for the end of summer.

Logan isn’t better than Ocean’s, but it’s told well enough to pass off as a better than average knock-off. All the characters display stereotypes which come attached to hillbillies – slow-witted, slow-talkin’ rural folk who know and love family, cars, hunting and boozing. Soderbergh uses those tropes to his advantage since this ragtag group doesn’t look like they could successfully hold up a convenience store. Adding underestimation and the element of surprise keeps this film fresh despite it being an unoriginal concept.

The acting is what you would expect – it’s excellent. Tatum and Driver look nothing alike but they work well as brothers since they seem to share the same brain and are almost inseparable. Keough is a surprise find, but it’s surprising only if you haven’t seen her in the television version of The Girlfriend Experience. Swank doesn’t find much screen time, but my take is she patterned her role as Special Agent Sarah Grayson after Andy Garcia’s Terry Benedict in Ocean’s. The flashiest (and best) performance belongs to Craig. Going from superspy with high-end tastes to low-brow criminal with a proclivity for explosives is a welcome change of pace. Craig sports some sly comedic chops, which bodes well for future roles in which he’s no longer playing James Bond.

In all, this shouldn’t be considered one of Soderbergh’s best works but it’s perfect for a big screen comeback. Soderbergh is in top form, and Logan Lucky serves as proof of that With a running time of 119 minutes, it runs slow at times and about 15-20 minutes could’ve been trimmed. But Soderbergh makes up for those drawbacks with a precise eye, a smart script (credited to an unseen and mysterious Rebecca Blunt) and good performances. As an added bonus (for race fans), the Weinstein Company partnered with NASCAR and the result is plenty of cameos scattered about. Depending on your tastes, you will either love it because it’s so similar to Ocean’s 11, or you may hate it for the same reason. Either way, it’s worth a look and even the most casual of filmgoers should enjoy it.

3.5 stars out of 5


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