Four years ago director Steven Soderbergh publicly retired from filmmaking, announcing that “movies don’t matter anymore.” He changed his mind on the first half of that proposition, hence his new release, Logan Lucky. As to the part about movies not mattering, we’ll have to take the new film — a cheerfully silly Appalachian heist doodad about West Virginia former coal miners robbing a NASCAR race event — on face value, thus proving Soderbergh’s original point.
As directed by the Duke of Hazard himself from a screenplay by “Rebecca Blunt,” newly fired construction worker Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) needs cash to finance his daughter’s (Farrah Mackenzie) talent show appearance. So he and his one-armed bartender brother (Adam Driver) round up a typical crew of yokels, including an explosives expert still serving time in prison (Daniel Craig), to sneak across the North Carolina state line and suck all the money out of the Charlotte Motor Speedway.
It’ll never make us forget about Smokey and the Bandit, but not solely for the reason that Tatum is no Burt Reynolds. Soderbergh’s situations, as always, appear overly studied. But there are a few scattered splinters of delight. S’bergh has not completely lost his touch for assembling action montage, although it seems a tad rusty. The cutting is not as sharp as Haywire. The corny Mountain Dew milieu – the working title was reportedly Hillbilly Heist – wears out its welcome, particularly when the actors go into their Hee Haw shtick. Driver is probably the worst offender with his odd out-of-nowhere accent left over from Paterson. Seth MacFarlane, the makeshift Jackie Gleason of the piece, is mild fun in the role of an insufferable Brit race driver.
The chief excuses to watch this are Craig’s bleach-blond-crewcutted convict Joe Bang, and the prison warden, played with perfect timing by Dwight Yoakam. Meanwhile, Soderbergh tends to his numerous TV projects and the Magic Mike spinoffs. So who really needs Logan Lucky? More to the point: Will they buy this in the South?