Logan Lucky, rated PG-13

Starring Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Daniel Craig, Riley Keough, Katie Holmes, Hilary Swank, Seth MacFarlane, Jack Quaid

Austin Family Critical Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Austin Family Family-Friendly Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Steven Soderbergh’s welcome return to cinema, Logan Lucky, is one of the most delightful surprises of the year – the working class heist answer to Soderbergh’s own Ocean’s Eleven (2001) series. It’s as tightly constructed a picture as you would expect from the always economical and precise Soderbergh, but imbued with a looseness that makes watching the film such a pleasure.

Channing Tatum and Adam Driver star as West Virginia brothers Jimmy and Clyde Logan, both of whom are decidedly unlucky (Jimmy, with a hurt leg, is let go from his job as a coal miner, and Clyde lost his arm serving a tour in Iraq). Together, they devise an intricate plan to rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway during a NASCAR race. To pull it off, they’ll need the help of their sister Mellie (Riley Keough) and particularly the assistance of explosive expert Joe Bang (Daniel Craig), who is currently incarcerated.

Logan Lucky has its own energy, completely separate from the whiz-bang style of the Ocean’s Eleven movies. It moves at the same relaxed speed as its characters – all of them vivid and rich enough to deserve their own movies. The Logans and company are subdued and leisurely, even while planning a major heist, which made me feel oddly relaxed and at home – a feeling I haven’t really experienced in a crime film. The manner in which they pull off the robbery is reflective of the specifics of the region. Just as Soderbergh made Tampa, Florida, an inseparable part of the milieu of Magic Mike (2012), he once again makes the West Virginia and North Carolina locales of Logan Lucky essential to this film’s story.

More than anything, this movie has soul. When Jimmy’s daughter Sadie (Farrah Mackenzie) starts singing an impromptu rendition of Take Me Home, Country Roads by John Denver at her talent show to honor her father, it’s a genuinely moving moment in which the film stops in its tracks and allows for something purely character-driven, almost unrelated to the robbery. It’s this kind of scene that elevates the film ever-so-slightly above the other great heist film from this summer, Baby Driver.

The film also has a third act that adds to its complexity. Most films would be satisfied to end right after the big climactic heist, but this one shows the characters adjusting to life after the heist (and, of course, provides some crucial details withheld from the audience during the actual robbery). It’s during this section that a lot of Logan Lucky’s structural brilliance becomes apparent – the set-ups and plants throughout the movie lead to richly rewarding payoffs.

The performances here are superb – it would have been so easy to play these characters as southern caricatures, but every one of them feels authentic and grounded. Craig, in particular, is fantastic as Joe Bang – hilarious, fascinating to watch, and nothing short of a truly original character in modern cinema. Soderbergh (and writer Rebecca Blunt) deserve enormous credit for one of the most entertaining, heartfelt movies to come out in 2017.

This film, although rated PG-13, has very little in the way of objectionable material. It should be appropriate for anyone over the age of 10.

Jack Kyser is a graduate of Austin High School and New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

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