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‘Logan Lucky’ review: Channing Tatum stars in backwoods ‘Ocean’s 11’

Stephen Soderbergh's latest caper-comedy, about a gang that knocks over a NASCAR speedway, stars Daniel Craig, Channing Tatum, Adam Driver and Katie Holmes. (Credit: Bleecker Street Films)

PLOT Two hard-luck brothers decide to rob a NASCAR speedway.

CAST Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Daniel Craig

RATED PG-13 (language and brief violence)

LENGTH 1:59

BOTTOM LINE A breezy, backwoods version of “Ocean’s 11” from director Steven Soderbergh.

In “Logan Lucky,” Channing Tatum plays Jimmy Logan, an unemployed West Virginia construction worker who decides to break his family’s hard-luck streak by pulling off an ambitious heist. With an elaborate plan and help from an army of colorful characters, Jimmy will attempt to rob no less an institution than the Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina.

The down-at-the-heel characters of “Logan Lucky” would seem worlds away from the glitzy Las Vegas con men of “Ocean’s 11” if the two movies didn’t share a director, Steven Soderbergh. “Logan Lucky” is his down-home version of the “Ocean’s” franchise, with NASCAR instead of the Bellagio, but it’s every bit as cheeky, fun and funny. Thanks to a sparkling script and a cherry-picked cast, it’s the perfect breezy action-comedy for a mid-August weekend.

Written by Rebecca Blunt, supposedly a first-time screenwriter but possibly a pseudonym for Soderbergh himself, “Logan Lucky” seems full of starring roles — not just Tatum’s Jimmy but his doleful, one-armed brother, Clyde (Adam Driver), and the irascible safecracker Joe Bang (Daniel Craig). Clearly thrilled to be playing someone other than James Bond, Craig does an admirable job as a Southern weirdo with a knack for making ad hoc explosives.

If there’s a bone to pick with “Logan Lucky,” it’s that it overdoes the redneck humor. The half-wit brothers with the hideous haircuts (Brian Gleeson and Jack Quaid play Sam and Fish Bang), the good ol’ boys who use $10 words — these are awfully familiar depictions of rural whites, and at times they feel as condescending as any other stereotype. Still, the movie is never cruel or mean-spirited. “Logan Lucky” exists in such a harmless version of reality that it manages to turn a prison race riot into one of the movie’s funniest scenes.

“Logan Lucky” has the same drawbacks as the “Ocean’s” films, namely, a high implausibility factor and characters who are lots of fun but don’t quite feel real. “Logan Lucky” also lacks a villain, which lessens the suspense as the heist plays out. None of that really spoils the fun, though. All told, “Logan Lucky” is about as pleasant as distractions come.

Other lucky Logans

Channing Tatum stars as a character named Logan in the new heist flick “Logan Lucky,” opening Friday. Logan has been a lucky name for people — both real and fictional — in the world of movies, including these four.

JOSHUA LOGAN He wrote and directed the classic films “Mister Roberts” (1955), “South Pacific” (1958) and “Fanny” (1961) — which he also penned and directed for Broadway. His other directorial credits include “Bus Stop” (1956) and “Camelot” (1967).

LOGAN (of “LOGAN’S RUN”) Michael York starred in this sci-fi cult flick about a utopian society of the future in which no one lives past the age of 30. The movie also features Farrah Fawcett just before her breakout role in TV’s “Charlie’s Angels.”

LOGAN (aka WOLVERINE) If ever an actor sank his claws into a role, it’s Hugh Jackman, who has played the mutant character in nine movies, starting with 2000’s “X-Men” through “Logan,” which came out in March.

LOGAN LERMAN The actor, who made his film debut at age 8 as Mel Gibson’s son in “The Patriot” (2000), has since played the title role in the “Percy Jackson” movies and a leading role in “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” (2012).

— Daniel Bubbeo

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