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Front Page - Friday, August 25, 2017

Critic's Corner: ‘Logan Lucky’ a hilarious, country-fried heist

You need three things to enjoy “Logan Lucky,” a heist comedy written by Rebecca Blunt and directed by Steven Soderbergh: a dry sense of humor, a tender heart and a friend.

If you come to the theater with those things, I believe you’ll have a great time. I brought only two of the three, and I enjoyed the heck out of it.

First, a little about the plot. “Logan Lucky” stars Channing Tatum as Jimmy Logan, a construction worker who loses his job for a bogus reason just as his ex-wife and her new husband are preparing to move, which will take his daughter farther away.

Angry over his mounting troubles, Jimmy goes to a bar run by his brother, Clyde, a veteran who lost part of his left arm in the service and wears a prosthetic. Played by Adam Driver (Kylo Ren in the new “Star Wars” trilogy), Clyde is a sagging sack of redneck depression whose single skill appears to be making complex drinks one-handed.

Jimmy suggests they rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway during a race to ease their burdens. Although initially reluctant, Clyde comes around when he sees the robbery to-do list Jimmy made and is convinced his brother means business.

(As an aside, the to-do list is the funniest thing I’ve seen in a movie this year. “S--t happens,” reads one item. The next item on the list: “Be ready for when s--t happens.”)

You might be thinking Jimmy and Clyde sound like a couple of country bumpkins. You’d be right.

Soderbergh is clearly dipping into Coen Brothers territory with protagonists who seem have the brains of Hi, Nicolas Cage’s character from “Raising Arizona,” and the poor planning skills of, well, every character in “Blood Simple.”

Even Tatum and Driver’s labored southern accents and deadpan delivery feel like a homage to the lighter side of Joel and Ethan Coen’s filmography.

But Jimmy and Clyde have more smarts than any of the mullet heads who populate a Coen Brothers movie, which gives them enough sense to realize they need help pulling off the trickiest part of the heist: blowing up the vault.

Enter Joe Bang, an imprisoned convict who specializes in making bank vaults go boom. Daniel Craig of James Bond fame plays Bang with what’s best described as pure joy.

You might be wondering how a man locked behind bars figures into Jimmy’s 10-step plan. Bang wonders the same during a jailhouse visit, looking at the brothers incredulously and stating, “I am in-car-cer-a-ted!”

But Jimmy has a solid plan, and part of the fun of watching “Logan Lucky” is the seeing it unfold.

That’s not the only entertainment to be had, though. Recall my list of requirements for enjoying the film.

The first item is a dry sense of humor, which I have. My sense of humor is so dry, I need to apply Chapstick after telling a joke. So, I spent a lot of time laughing at conversations like this:

“Are you in a secure location?”

“I’m at Lowe’s.”

And this:

“How many yards away is the vault?”

“Twenty yards. Maybe 30.”

“Is it 20 or is it 30? We’re dealing with science here!”

The latter might not sound funny until you realize it’s James Bond explaining the science behind a Gummy Bear bomb to a pair of rednecks.

Again, it looks like Craig had a good time sinking his teeth into a flamboyant comedic role, and that translated into more fun for me.

I have a soft heart, too, and this is where “Logan Lucky” surprised me. While I’ve been a fan of Soderbergh’s work since he made his first film, “Sex, Lies and Videotape” (1989), his movies have always had a slightly antiseptic quality.

It’s as though he’s uncomfortable with getting too close to his characters and keeps his distance from them.

But “Logan Lucky” has the right amount of charm and some of the warmest characters in a Soderbergh film. Tatum is especially likeable as the low key (some might argue dull) Jimmy, in part because of his relationship with his young daughter.

She’s still at the age in which she thinks he hung the moon, which helped me to like him, too.

A scene in which she sings “Take Me Home, Country Roads” at a beauty pageant because it’s his favorite song is a heart-tugger.

For my money, the greatest pleasure to be found in “Logan Lucky” is watching how skillfully Soderbergh ties all the pieces together to make a slick, amusing, touching film. From the casting, to the writing, to the performances, and down to how Soderbergh shot and edited the movie, no part of “Logan Lucky” fails to work.

“Logan Lucky” is not a classic heist film, nor is it a definitive comedy. But it is a lot of fun, which is why you need to take a friend.

I didn’t – and I wish I had. I love grabbing a bite after seeing a good flick and chatting with my companion about our favorite bits.

Mine would have to be the robbery to-do list. Seriously, it’s so funny, it’s worth the price of admission.

Three out of four stars