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Steven Soderbergh returns with crowd-pleasing ‘Logan Lucky’

Updated August 18, 2017 - 7:33 pm

If people actually stuck to their retirement plans, we wouldn’t have next week’s latest fight of the century, the past 16 years of Kiss shows or Richard Nixon’s presidency.

Those are all pretty much the exact opposite of good examples.

But it’s tough to think of comebacks as exciting as director Steven Soderbergh’s return to filmmaking with “Logan Lucky,” just four years after he “retired.”

The crowd-pleasing comedy about down-on-their-luck West Virginia brothers Jimmy (Channing Tatum) and Clyde Logan (Adam Driver), who decide to rob Charlotte Motor Speedway, is both an homage to and a complete reversal of Soderbergh’s “Ocean’s” trilogy. There’s even a winking reference to their low-rent, high-stakes caper as “Ocean’s 7-Eleven.”

Jimmy, an out-of-work coal miner, has been fired from his job helping to shore up sinkholes beneath the speedway because he didn’t disclose the fact that he blew out his knee years ago as a top football prospect.

Showing up at the McMansion his ex-wife, Bobbie Jo (Katie Holmes), and her new car-dealer husband (David Denman) call home, Jimmy’s prepared to take his beloved daughter, Sadie (Farrah Mackenzie), for ice cream. Then he learns Bobbie Joe no longer lets her eat it. “She says ice cream has too many calories,” Sadie explains, “and nobody likes a fat girl.” Then Bobbie Joe informs Jimmy that she’s moving Sadie across state lines to the site of the family’s next car lot.

This is all too much for Jimmy to take, so he devises a plan and posts on the refrigerator a list titled “10 Rules for Robbing a Bank.” Rule No. 1? “Decide to rob a bank.”

Jimmy’s the impulsive one, but Clyde, a bartender at the Duck Tape and war veteran who lost his left hand to an IED in Iraq, is the brains of the family — relatively speaking. As part of “Logan Lucky’s” deep, rich character work, Driver blesses Clyde with the cadence of a Southern Baptist preacher who’s been repeatedly struck by lightning.

Then there’s hairdresser and gearhead Mellie (Riley Keough), Jimmy and Clyde’s sister, who’s heard all too much about the Logan family curse and is determined to never hear it again.

Knocking over a monolith as big as Charlotte Motor Speedway, though, requires more than three family members with zero robbery experience. So they reach out to the incarcerated Joe Bang (Daniel Craig as you’ve never seen him and probably never will again), a demolitions expert and hayseed MacGyver. He, in turn, requires the aid of his hillbilly brothers, Fish (Jack Quaid) and Sam (Brian Gleeson), who, when we meet them, are bobbing for pigs’ feet and playing toilet-seat horseshoes.

Also, they’ll need to break Joe Bang out of jail, under the harsh eye of the warden (Dwight Yoakam), in a plot that’s every bit as elaborate, if low-tech, as any in the “Ocean’s” movies.

“Logan Lucky” is a vibrant, hilarious heist comedy written by Rebecca Blunt, a first-time screenwriter who almost certainly doesn’t exist.

As of this writing, Blunt never has been seen or interviewed. In the press notes, “she” is described as a friend of Soderbergh’s wife, refers to Tatum as “Chan” and says she pitched him the script when she ran into him in a bowling alley. Soderbergh is no stranger to pseudonyms, though. He’s worked as his own cinematographer under the name Peter Andrews, and he’s often his own editor, credited as Mary Ann Bernard.

Whoever “Rebecca Blunt” is, she has an intimate knowledge of Soderbergh’s previous works, seems to have spent quite a bit of time watching the Coen brothers’ movies and has at least a passing affection for the films of Wes Anderson.

“She” also goes on a bit long. For every ridiculously funny, out-of-nowhere detour involving “Game of Thrones” author George R.R. Martin’s failure to deliver his much-delayed novel “The Winds of Winter,” there’s an underdeveloped subplot involving an obnoxious energy-drink founder (an unrecognizable Seth MacFarlane) and the health-nut driver (Sebastian Stan) he sponsors.

Still, after four years away, it’s far better to have too much of a Soderbergh movie than not enough.

Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4567. Follow @life_onthecouch on Twitter.

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