August used to be a throwaway month for movies. Like February, it was filled with projects the studios knew weren't going to do well at the box office ("The Dark Tower"), along with a few good indies here and there ("Landline").
Now, here comes Steven Soderbergh, working entirely outside the studio system, with another well-made movie that makes August look so much brighter. It's a heist, a genre he proved he can execute very well with "Ocean's Eleven" (and to a lesser extent in the two sequels). This one's called "Logan Lucky," but it might as well have been titled "Ocean's Fourteen."
It doesn't have George Clooney and the gang, but it has a whole new group of schemers, led by Channing Tatum. His character is fired from a construction job near the Charlotte Motor Speedway, but not before he's observed something that sparks an idea of how to rob the track of an enormous amount of cash during one of its busiest racing events. Adam Driver plays his co-conspirator brother, an Iraq war veteran and bartender who wears a prosthetic where part of his arm was blown off (it gets sucked into the plot, literally). Riley Keogh plays their sister, a hairdresser who plays a role in the scheme, too. In an inspired bit of casting, Daniel Craig -- in spiky blond hair, neck tattoos, and a questionable accent -- plays Joe Bang, an explosives expert they need. Unfortunately, he's in prison, but Tatum has a way around that.
I like intricately plotted heists (read my list of The Best Con Man Movies Ever), which Soderbergh and his writer, the heretofore unknown Rebecca Blunt, are very good at devising and portraying on screen. There's a little too much pressing of the redneck button with the Bang Brothers (Jack Quaid and Brian Gleeson), but the rest of the cast is very good, including Hilary Swank as an FBI agent, Seth McFarlane overdoing it as usual as the sponsor of one of the drivers in the big race, and Katie Holmes as Tatum’s ex-wife, who wants to move out of state with her new husband and their daughter. Speaking of the kid, the one plot point that disappointed me involves the girl in a beauty pageant that looks like it was ripped off directly from "Little Miss Sunshine."
The entire movie rests on the charisma and likability of Tatum's character, plus the scheming and complexities of the crime. They work very well and make "Logan Lucky" a lot of fun.
I give it an 8 out of 10.