Steven Soderbergh is no stranger to hysterical and clever action flicks -- after all, his Ocean’s Eleven was so successful that it became a full-blown franchise. And when word got out that he would be emerging from a brief directorial hiatus to helm the barmy heist film Logan Lucky, it felt exciting. There was also the intriguing fact that its screenwriter, first-time scribe Rebecca Blunt, has been shrouded in mystery; some have claimed that Blunt is really a pseudonym for an as-yet unknown individual, a possibility that Soderbergh has coyly evaded discussing. Regardless, the buzz surrounding the film, along with the star-studded cast, amplified the anticipation surrounding its release.
The movie has all the right stuff: solid plot structure, a great cast, and an interesting setting. Set in the bowels of North Carolina, Jimmy (Channing Tatum) and Clyde Logan (Adam Driver) are brothers who are convinced that a family curse is the reason for their bad luck. When Jimmy gets fired from his construction job, he decides to resort to desperate measures in order to get the money he needs to support his daughter. With the help of their car-enthusiast sister Mellie (Riley Keough) and an incarcerated master of explosives named Joe Bang (Daniel Craig) and his two bungling brothers (Jack Quaid and Brian Gleeson), Jimmy and Clyde put together an elaborate plan to rob the vaults beneath the Charlotte Motor Speedway during the iconic Coca-Cola 600 race. Things go awry, of course, but the group ultimately manage to execute the heist…much to the chagrin of FBI agent Sarah Grayson (Hilary Swank), who shows up at the end for seemingly no reason save to extend the already too-long film’s duration by an extra 20 minutes or so.
The movie also gets bogged down by a number of high-profile celebrity cameos that have nothing to do with the plot. Sebastian Stan briefly shows up as a health-nut NASCAR driver, alongside an almost unrecognizable Seth MacFarlane. Katie Holmes pops in and out as Jimmy’s ex-wife Bobbie Jo, who is now married to Roy from The Office (David Denman). These cameos offer brief glimpses at an interesting cast of characters, but add little to the overall story arc.
On a positive note, the chemistry between Adam Driver and Channing Tatum is fun to watch; they are both masters of physical comedy, and their back-and-forth makes them feel like they’re a believable pair of goofy, blundering brothers. It’s also hilarious (and a bit disarming) to see Daniel Craig completely out of debonair, classy 007 mode, as he portrays a tattooed, bleach-blonde hick with a fondness for vending-machine hard-boiled eggs and makeshift explosives.
Despite a few genuinely funny moments and the occasional decent piece of dialogue, the film just falls flat. The audience spends two hours waiting for something to happen, but nothing ever does. The inventiveness that held together the capers in Ocean’s Eleven isn’t present here, making Logan Lucky feel like an interminable, milquetoast exercise in world-building rather than an actual story (despite the inarguable talents of a fantastic but underutilized cast).