Steven Soderbergh’s long-awaited return from retirement falls just short of successful comedy. You’re more likely to nod and say ‘ha!’ than to laugh out loud – but Logan Lucky’s entertaining cast, characters and screwball plot are definitely enough of a distraction from its deflated jokes.
I have no idea whether Channing Tatum’s Appalachian accent is accurate or not. As a Brit who’s never visited the region, I don’t have anything to compare it to. All I can say is that the people behind the camera must have some confidence in it; the movie opens with a conversation between Jimmy (Tatum) and his daughter, so thickly accented that it took me a second to adjust and understand it. It sounds good to me.
Just like the stereotypical ‘Valley girl’ voice, heavy Southern accents are often a shorthand for stupidity in lazy comedies. According to various surveys, real people who speak this way can often be subject to a whole host of judgements, including employment prejudice – despite studies having proven that there is absolutely no correlation between this accent and low intelligence. That should be obvious, but the fact that this study needed to be commissioned in the first place should tell you everything you need to know. But where other movies go for that cheap laugh, Logan Lucky does not. What Jimmy has to say isn’t stupid.
That slaying of the stereotype sets the tone for the rest of the movie. The characters are accused repeatedly of being stupid, or rednecks – or both. But whether they realise it or not, the Logan family has learned to use being underestimated to their advantage. With a supposed curse hanging over their heads, the family’s poor fortunes have also brought them closer together. In fact, the bond between the three siblings is the real draw of Logan Lucky, and some of the film’s best moments come from this loyalty. In particular, the brothers’ first scene together stands out, proving early on in the running time that these characters have each other’s backs. Period.
The whole cast is excellent, but Adam Driver deserves a special mention for his charming, understated turn as Jimmy’s brother, Clyde. He’s a refreshingly complex character. A veteran with a prosthetic hand, Clyde bears up under frequent mockery with a mixture of resentment and resignation. Though he defends himself and his pride against these cruel jokes, it feels like part of him sometimes agrees with the people making fun of him. He’s childishly dour, too – the permanent baby brother. It’s a really interesting character and performance.
Flat-ish jokes aside, I’d say the film’s only major failure is underutilising Mellie (Riley Keough). It’s great fun watching her run rings around a condescending car salesman who knows less about his product than she does, and you get the feeling she could have played a much bigger part. Same goes for Hilary Swank’s FBI agent – although it’d be a far longer movie if that wish were granted, and there’s every chance it couldn’t carry that weight.
In all, Logan Lucky is a fun movie. You won’t cry laughing, but you certainly won’t be bored either – and you’ll be rooting for the characters the whole way through. A very worthy outing for Soderbergh, and hopefully not his last. Again.