Hands down, this is the best heist movie of the year.
Set improbably in West Virginia — yes, redneck country — it draws in nice woodsy settings, a local jail and a great big Nascar race. These are the sorts of things you don’t see much in movies today; the novelty works.
The lead, Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum), has lost his football career to a bum knee and lost his wife, and possibly his daughter, to a jumped-up vulgarian. As the movie opens, he loses his construction job at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
He decides to do something audacious and cooks up a finely detailed plan whose execution makes up the bulk of the movie. The usual knock on back-country people is that they aren’t all that bright, but here Jimmy Logan demonstrates that he’s dumb like a fox, as people down in the hollow might say.
The movie crackles along, stocked with diversions and broad humor that sustain it through two hours of fun.
The director, Steven Soderbergh (of the Oceans trilogy, among other films) has gathered a first-rate cast with some unexpected appearances — Daniel Craig as a hillbilly explosives expert now wearing stripes in a county jail run by ex-country singer/actor Dwight Yoakum, and Hilary Swank as an FBI agent. There are many others.
What also impressed me was the script. In addition to the range of characters and humor, the plot reflects research and careful construction, and it holds together well. (Yes, you could pick a nit or two, but there are none of the gaping craters that audiences are expected to overlook in so many movies now.)
According to the credits, the screenwriter was Rebecca Blunt, and according to industry publications, this was her first screenplay. Yeah, right, I think. There is a long Hollywood history of pseudonymous scripts, and this is just the latest one.
Still, if another Blunt-written film is released, I’m going.
Another thing I appreciated about “Logan Lucky” was its lack of gunfights. Perhaps because of this, it is expected to come in second in last weekend’s movie sales, well behind “The Hitman’s Bodyguard,” a buddy film starring Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds and featuring lots and lots of gunplay.
This follows another much-admired film, “Baby Driver,” whose climax was a series of grinding shoot-outs that killed almost every one of its characters. Yes, the concept was stylish, but the body count was extremely grisly.
I understand that commercial storytelling requires conflict and that people shooting each other is about as conflict-full as conflict can get.
But I do wonder sometimes whether years of movies about people settling scores with guns hasn’t become a bit of a problem. Is it possible that impressionable people who see these films come to believe that such conflict resolution is more normal and acceptable than it really is, or at least than it used to be?
Could this have something to do, at least indirectly, with the 102 shootings in Chicago over this year’s very long Fourth of July weekend?