Still from 2017's "Logan Lucky."

like a fantasy, though: his coal miner buddies were always quick to remind him just how far out of his league she was.

 

The nostalgic story is told so evocatively, we can practically hear the sounds of the floorboard creaking under the rocking chair around which we imagine the family has gathered. The mosquitoes buzzing about the warm summer air. The warmth of Lynn’s father’s voice.

 

Just as the story’s about to reach its climax, Lynn’s father briefly pauses for dramatic emphasis. Here, the fairy tale ending arrives. “Then my daddy would look at mommy and smile,” Lynn sighs, the smile on her face audible. “As he brushed the hair back from my eyes, he’d say, ‘Your mama? She’s the Van Lear Rose.’”

 

This moment helps set the stage for the rest of the album, which, on Lynn’s part, is semi-autobiographical. For most of the LP, we are presented with a rose-colored, slightly exaggerated vision of Loretta Lynn’s Southern life, all comfort food with all the fixings, sloe gin fizzes, hair bigger than Priscilla Presley’s, dresses finer than Scarlett O’Hara’s, quilts made of overalls, mentionings of Kentucky with clear adoration, and love that lasts forever and ever. It’s wonderfully expressive.

 

Steven Soderbergh’s Logan Lucky (2017) seems to exist in this same universe. Also set in the South (though North Carolina makes for the central setting rather than Kentucky), it touches upon the themes and images brought up in Lynn’s lyrics: close familial ties, the usage of faith as a saving grace, and the little things in life that count, like cold brews and hot summer nights. Only there’s a twist: thrown into this mix are components of Terrence Malick’s Badlands (1973) and Soderbergh’s own Ocean’s Eleven (2001). On top of the aforementioned romantic characteristics found in both the 2004 LP and Logan Lucky, we find that being an outlaw is among the sentimentalized items, too.

 

Because the movie is such a breezy entry in the now-old-hat heist genre, and because it marks Soderbergh’s moviemaking return after announcing his “retirement” shortly after the release of his 2013 feature Side Effects, I can’t complain about its far-fetched idealization of criminality. Or stop myself from losing myself in its adventuresome output.

 

In Logan Lucky, we are introduced to the Logan family, an unlucky bunch trying to get by in the slums of North Carolina. Though they’ve been impressively able to endure much hardship for most of their lives, we’re first acquainted with them just as shit has really hit the fan. Particularly for the oldest, Jimmy (Channing Tatum), a once-promising footballer whose career was derailed by an injury. Just before he can reason that things can’t get any worse (in addition to his athletic woes, he also recently suffered through a painful divorce [the ex played by Katie Holmes]), they do: he’s laid off from his already badly paying construction job at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, without much of a future waiting ahead.

 

Jimmy is angry, and knows that his brother Clyde (Adam Driver) and sister Mellie (Riley Keough) are financially frustrated, too. Clyde’s a bartender at a local tavern, trying to get memories from his time fighting in the Iraq War out of his head. Mellie’s a hairstylist at a salon that’s just a cut above Fantastic Sam’s.

 

So as such, he enlists them to help him do the unthinkable: rob the Speedway as both as way to subtextually claim that he’s “showing ‘em” and get himself to a place of financial stability. They agree, and so do a couple bum friends just as game.

 

From the start, the plan’s shaky – Jimmy’s to-do list is laughable – and we half-expect this gaggle of hasty crooks to get caught sometime in the middle of their little excursion. Soderbergh appears to not believe in his cast of characters, either: the plan’s desperation seems to have gotten in the way of the fact that it should actually be methodically mapped. But halfway through do we come to realize that the Logans and their associates have two things on their side. A hell of a lot of good fortune (ironic, considering just how much their lives are prone to going downhill) and unexpected aptitude. We slowly shift from the thinking that they’ll be caught red-handed to the idea that they just might get away with it. As an effect, the fun increases: it’s much more satisfying to see average Joes doing the impossible in contrast to the suave professional types of The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) and The Italian Job (1969) making more bank on top of the bank they already have.

 

It’s also satisfying to see Soderbergh return to moviemaking so effortlessly. Though he hasn’t pandered to his wild ambitions since the two-part Ché biopic of 2008, Logan Lucky is a winning popcorn movie nonetheless. It strengthens his reputation as a great genre filmmaker, as evidenced by the disease thriller Contagion (2011) and the bare bones action movie Haywire (2012).

 

It’s no frills and no stakes, really – made simply to be a good time at the movies that doesn’t insult one’s intelligence. And that’s part of Logan Lucky’s appeal. It’s a persuasive heist movie detour that happens to be smartly made and acted. (Juicy performances are notably provided by Daniel Craig and Hilary Swank, playing an undervalued safe cracker and a no-nonsense criminal investigator, respectively.) It’s good to have Soderbergh back. And if he wants to spend the rest of his filmmaking career making movies as relaxed as Logan Lucky, we’d better let him. B+

DIRECTED BY

Steven Soderbergh

 

STARRING

Channing Tatum

Adam Driver

Riley Keough

Daniel Craig

Katie Holmes

Hilary Swank

Katherine Waterston

Sebastian Stan

Seth MacFarlane

Macon Blair

 

RATED

R

 

RELEASED IN

2017

 

RUNNING TIME

1 Hr., 59 Mins.

Logan Lucky January 4, 2018        

n the title track of Loretta Lynn’s 39th studio album, Van Lear Rose (2004), the South becomes the most romantic place on Earth. In the song, Lynn recalls one of her favorite childhood traditions: sitting on her father’s knee on the front porch as he recounts the good old days. In the story told on this particular evening, Lynn’s father speaks wistfully of the Van Lear Rose, the belle of Johnson county some decades ago. He remembers how beautiful she was, and how much he longed to hold her in his arms. Such always seemed

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