A little over a year ago I attended the wedding of one of my best friend’s, which took place in Ohio. After discharging my duties as best man in a lovely parish in the middle of nowhere, I had to find my way back to civilization. My trusty GPS gave me two options: the way I came up or the scenic route that took me through the mountains of West Virginia. I opted for the latter with the few lyrics I know of “Take Me Home, Country Roads” echoing somewhere in the back of my head. I bring that brief tale up because recently rewatched Logan Lucky (2017), a heist film set in the mountainous state of all places. Its main character is Jimmy Logan’s (Channing Tatum) and his favorite song is the John Denver classic, so viewing it always takes me back to that idyllic drive through the Appalachians. And it took me home, too.
Logan Lucky is basically the redneck Ocean’s Eleven. Hey! There is a point in the film where the theft the main characters pull off is referred to in that way! Jimmy’s motivation for turning to crime was spurred when the excavation company he had been working for fired him because of his injured knee, the result of an old old football injury. Leaving his former place of employment, he then goes to pick up his daughter from his ex-wife’s house, only to find out that they planned on moving far away and thus making it more difficult to see them. As might be natural, he ends up at the Duck Tape (great name for a West Virginia watering hole) where his brother and main accomplice, Clyde Logan (Adam Driver), is a bartender. Their reunion is interrupted by Max Chilblain (Seth MacFarlane), a pompous Brit who makes sport of Clyde’s prosthetic arm that resulted from his time in the service. In the aftermath of losing his job, the impending move of his daughter, bruises from defending his brother, and the glow of Max’s burning car, Jimmy turns to Clyde and says, “Cauliflower.” This is code for a long theorized heist they had apparently discussed for years. Their target is the Charlotte Motor Speedway, and they steal millions of dollars from it during the running of the Coca-Cola 600.
Like Ocean’s Eleven, in Logan Lucky the plan for robbing the Charlotte Motor Speedway is elaborate. While the former is sophisticated, the latter has a simpleness to it that you might expect given the setting, though no less clever. Still, in light of how Jimmy and Clyde are presented, the cleverness is a little difficult to believe at times. In Ocean’s Eleven, all the characters just know what is going on because they are professional con-artists. They can speak Mandarin, for crying out loud! With Logan Lucky, at the key moment when they were about to start getting the money out, they assumed that Joe Bang (Daniel Craig), a famed bank vault exploder, was going to produce a stick of dynamite to do the job. You know, like something out of w Wile E. Coyote cartoon? Which, how was he supposed to have that kind of ordinance on him when they had just broken him out of prison? Another telling moment was when Joe explained the chemical formula for his mini-bomb (though he hates that “b” word) to the brothers with chalk, but to no avail. Had this been Ocean’s Eleven, not only would that explanation have been unnecessary but they would have understood the formula before it was finished. I do not mean to seem to sound too critical because I really do enjoy the film. It just is not as perfect as it could be.
Despite being another movie where criminals are depicted as heroes, the core of Logan Lucky is the relationship between Jimmy and his daughter, Sadie (Farrah Mackenzie). Clearly she does not belong to a traditional Christian family. That does not mean, however, that Jimmy and his ex-wife, Bobbie Jo Chapman (Katie Holmes), love their offspring any less. And while you might think Jimmy is not setting the best example for the young lady, he does end up giving back the overwhelming majority of the money. Not all of it, but some anyway. And there is the suggestion that the Logans might have to pay the price for their criminal deeds when Special Agent Sarah Grayson (Hilary Swank) shows up at the Duck Tape in the last scene in the midst of the accomplices celebrating what they believe is a clean get away.
Despite a few flaws, Logan Lucky is a perfectly enjoyable movie. Sure, it is somewhat derivative, but what Hollywood movie is not these days? Younger kids might find it boring, particularly in how it takes time to set up all the pieces of the heist. But there are some good laughs and it does not resort to vulgarity. And there is the charm of being set in West Virginia.