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Logan Lucky •••

Starring: Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Daniel Craig
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Screenplay: Rebecca Blunt
Comedy/Crime/Drama, Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 119 minutes
Release Date: August 18, 2017


(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)

Greg, in all this excitement, you’ve gotta ask yourself one question: “Do I feel lucky?”

It’s de-ja-vu all over again in this remake of Hell or High Water – in West Virginia.

We meet Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum), a construction worker at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. He is fired from his job for liability reasons after it is discovered that he walks with a limp due to an old football injury. Jimmy visits his brother Clyde (Adam Driver), who wears a prosthetic hand as a result of injury during the Iraq war. After getting in a fight with Max Chiblain (Seth MacFarlane), an arrogant British celebrity, the two men decide to organize a complex heist of the huge cash vault underneath the Charlotte Speedway.

They enlist the aid of incarcerated bank robber Joe Bang (Daniel Craig). They promise to break him out of jail and repay him money he lost to his ex-wife. But Joe wants his brothers Fish and Sam in on the action, too. Now the two men and their sister, Mellie (Riley Keough), create a plan to use the money pneumatic pipes to suck the cash out of the vault.

Logan Lucky Is a delightfully quirky movie about the antics of some quirky characters, not all of whom are delightful. This film sits confidently in the mold of the Ocean’s Eleven franchise in that we witness the complicated heist of a massive institution, which this time happens to be NASCAR. Our heroes are actually anti-hero criminals, although we find ourselves rooting for them because (1) the writers were smart enough to endow these characters with some endearing qualities, and (2) other people in the film are portrayed as far more dastardly.

One thing that struck me was that our lead hero in the ensemble, Jimmy, shows an intuitive understanding of the hero’s journey. He composes a “to-do” list describing the process of pulling off the heist successfully, and lo and behold the list contains key elements of the hero’s journey such as “shit happens” and “deal with said shit”. Joseph Campbell described these setbacks in far more eloquent terms but the idea is the same. Heroes encounter obstacles, failures, and growth opportunities, which ultimately contribute to a successful execution of the hero mission.

I have a much dimmer view of this film than you, Scott. First, it plays upon the hillbilly stereotype. Second, in most anti-hero stories, the anti-heroes are battling against something evil, so we root for them. Jimmy and Clyde are ripping off NASCAR. Even Clyde asks the obvious question: “Why are we robbing NASCAR? They are the best thing in America.” But Jimmy has no answer.

It’s no wonder that this film bears a resemblance to Oceans 11 – it shares the same director in Steven Soderbergh. And it comes hot off the heels of last year’s Hell or High Water. Except in that film, the anti-heroes were fighting the evil forces of a bank that was leeching the life out of a small town. We root for those guys because they’re being ripped off. But Jimmy and Clyde are just down on their luck and happen to know the weakness of Charlotte Raceway’s money vault. I don’t have sympathy for them and I don’t see any justification for their reward.

The premise worked for me, Greg, because we see Jimmy get unjustly fired from his job, and we also see Jimmy and Clyde get insulted because they suffer from physical disabilities. This ignites our sympathy for them. NASCAR is a billion dollar business and certainly isn’t as evil as the banking industry or as sleazy as a big casino, but these days rich fat-cats of any type are perceived as guilty of greed and therefore ripe for robbery. I’m not condoning this perception; it’s just the mindset of our society right now.

So we do have a strong hero’s journey, and although Jimmy doesn’t anticipate every bump on the heroic road, he plans well enough to pull off the heist. Daniel Craig nearly steals the show with his portrayal of a smart, dangerous convict who helps our heroic duo break into the vault. I do agree with you, Greg, that the stereotype of southerners as slow and stupid did bother me. I’m lived in the South for over 30 years and trust me, dear readers, this movie does not accurately portray people south of the Mason-Dixon line.

And, what was Seth MacFarlane doing in this film? He was basically a douche-bag brit that insulted Clyde’s lost hand. That was apparently the inciting incident that led our boys into a life of crime. Otherwise, he had little purpose in this film.

As with other films of this ilk, there’s little transformation here. Our heroes seem richer for their efforts (is this a type of transformation we’ve neglected?), and are closer as brothers. Jimmy’s ex-wife seems to be more willing to let him see his daughter. But otherwise, everyone is the same as they started. And who knows? Maybe Hillary Swank as the last-minute FBI agent might figure out what our boys did and they’ll get their cum-uppance.

Logan Lucky is a fun, adventurous, and clever movie that features some wonderful performances by Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, and Daniel Craig. The dialogue, chemistry, and antics of these three characters are certainly worth the price of admission. This film has a mission-impossible-like feel to it, with a nice mix of complex planning that we are privy to and other planning that catches us by surprise. The combination of memorable and colorful characters along with a fun and sprightly plotline compels me to award this film 4 Reels out of 5.

Our anti-heroes are down-on-their luck brothers who appear so deserving of a break that we find ourselves rooting for them to succeed in their criminal caper. Jimmy and Clyde follow the hero’s journey almost to the letter; they attract helpers, encounter anti-villains and obstacles, and emerge richer and self-confident. Most importantly, the Logan curse has been lifted. I award this duo 4 Hero points out of 5.

The transformation is a bit more subtle and thus difficult to pinpoint. Clearly, with the curse lifted, they have experienced a transformation of self-confidence. Greg, I would not call wealth accumulation a transformation, although if you pushed me I might say it is a type of physical transformation that we discuss in our most recent book, Reel Heroes & Villains. One thing to keep in mind is that the story is not yet over, as FBI agent Hilary Swank appears poised to track down and capture our anti-heroes. I’ll give our dynamic duo just 2 Deltas out of 5 because they didn’t truly transform much, and that’s okay because transformation was never the point of this film.

Movie: Heroes: Transformations:

Logan Lucky is a wannabe mash-up of Hell or High Water and Oceans 11 – but the results are disappointing. I don’t feel any remorse for our anti-hero brothers Jimmy and Clyde – at least not enough for me to get over the fact that they’re committing a crime. The crime itself is a good caper but the twist at the end left me feeling tricked rather than impressed. I can only muster 2 out of 5 Reels for this film.

The heroes come off as dim-witted but ultimately show that they know more than the average bear. Jimmy does his best to be a good dad to his daughter Sadie. He’s ripping off NASCAR so he can afford to move to Lynchburg to follow Sadie when her mom moves there. Still, I don’t admire a man who breaks the law to show his dedication. I only have 2 Heroes for Jimmy and Clyde.

There are some transformations here. Joe Bang gets out of jail. The boys get their money. Jimmy gets to be with Sadie. And Clyde gets a nicer prosthetic arm. I give them all 1 Delta out of 5.

Movie: Heroes: Transformations:

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