No one is as adept as Steven Soderbergh in making a caper film and utilizing all the machinations that go with it.
In his latest venture, “Logan Lucky,” Soderbergh, who came out of retirement to helm the film, plays on our stereotypical perceptions of West Virginians as rubes and rednecks to create an enjoyable and amusing heist yarn that upends your expectations.
Soderbergh and screenwriter Rebecca Blunt set us up by presenting brothers Jimmy and Clyde Logan (Channing Tatum and Adam Driver) as a couple of lovable losers.
The divorced Jimmy, a man with big dreams and plans, has just lost his construction job, while Clyde, who lost a hand in Iraq, tends bar at the Duck Tale.
Clyde had served time as a juvenile after a robbery planned by Jimmy went wrong, so he is reluctant to follow his brother’s latest scheme, to steal money during the Coca-Cola 600 Charlotte Motor Speedway race, a massive event that brings in millions of dollars.
The audience is set for failure because, earlier at the bar, Clyde reminds Jimmy of all the bad luck that has beset the Logan clan.
Soderbergh and Blunt lead viewers through the preparations for the heist, which includes getting Clyde arrested so he can hook up with explosives expert Joe Bang (a delightfully funny Daniel Craig), and break both of them out of the prison just in time for the robbery and then returning them undetected after they complete the job.
At each step, you expect something to go wrong — some foul-up to put the kibosh to Jimmy’s intricate plan.
The mechanics — indeed, the robbery itself — is secondary to the characters.
And that is the key to why “Logan Lucky” is such a pleasing and amusing diversion.
The performers all seem very laid-back, mostly underplaying their parts and embracing their characters, neither demeaning nor mocking them.
“Logan Lucky” has a very light and relaxing air about it. You feel comfortable and relaxed, despite the bits of tension and suspense Soderbergh infuses in the proceedings.
More importantly, Soderbergh and Blunt make you care about these characters. You root for them to succeed because they are likable and appealing.
Tatum, who seems to have gained a few pounds and walks with a heavy gait — he also has a limp from an accident his character suffered earlier in life — does not really instill any confidence in the audience.
His Jimmy emits a slight aura of incompetence that is misleading. Behind this facade is an organized mind that anticipates any contingency.
Driver, like Jimmy, is a rather quiet individual. He is the family skeptic, certain that the Logan curse will upend the enterprise.
The funniest moments belong to Craig. He is like a chemistry teacher, giving Jimmy and Clyde a quick lesson in explosives, explaining why his use of gummy bears as a component will succeed.
And, yes, “Logan Lucky” does have some moments of suspension of belief, but they are minor and do not detract from the overall delight of the movie.
“Logan Lucky” succeeds because Soderbergh shows not only respect for his characters, but reveals their hearts and souls. He gently pushes you to embrace them.
“Logan Lucky” is an entertaining romp, a popcorn-munching venture that is a rarity among the CGI-dominated bombast of summer movies.
It is a charming feature that will have you grinning from ear to ear.
I am a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. My reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and Rottentomatoes (www.rottentomatoes.com). I also review Blu-rays and DVDs. I can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom. Links to my reviews can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.