Reel Reviews: Logan Lucky teems with tenderness, simple humor and sensitivity

In 2016 the film Masterminds was released, based on the true story of what became known as the “Hillbilly Heist.” Now in 2017, the movie Logan Lucky has a moment late in its story when the story’s racetrack robbery is referred to by the same name.

Both films are comedies, but while the former uses the hillbilly aspect as a way for the characters mock themselves in unfunny situations, the latter is one that appreciates the characters in its story as people.

As a result, Logan Lucky creates an endearing tale with the capacity to actually make an audience laugh.

Channing Tatum stars as Jimmy Logan, a construction worker with a limp, in a family that has become known for its supposed hex. Logan’s brother, the one-handed Clyde, played by Adam Driver, argues that everything that happens to the Logan clan is unlucky.

Logan, believing that the curse is hokum, plans a heist involving a demolition man named Joe Bang, Bang’s two brothers and Clyde. The job involves stealing money from a racetrack’s vault, on the day of a big NASCAR race.

The film is directed by Steven Soderbergh, a creator who is best known for his Oceans movies, heist films with star-studded casts and   big, bold humor. Here, Soderbergh eschews the glamor and glitz of Las Vegas and internationally set movies.

Instead, his work resembles a quiet and tenderness that can be found in his less popular film, The Informant!, if only in a more rural setting.

The movie’s humor is best in its small moments. A wide stable shot with a man in a bear costume is uproarious. A single spray of a fire extinguisher becomes a punchline. A man buying potato chips is hysterical, as he does so in a timid voice after crashing through the window of a gas station store.

The delicate comedic touches go along with gentle characters. The Logan brothers, poor and rural as they may be, are characters created with care in this “Hillbilly Heist.”

Logan, fired from his construction job for having a limp, tries to hide his pain while caring for his daughter. Clyde is repeatedly mocked for missing a hand, an injury that occurred while he was serving in the military.

The central conflict of the film is in its heist, and its underlying conflict is a mistrust of materialism. The value of a car is implicitly argued to be better if it has manual transmission over automatic.

Cellphones are deemed unnecessary and the song choice for Jimmy’s daughter at a child pageant speaks to the choice between the materialistic side of her mother’s suburban tendencies and the lovable rurality of her father.

The film simplifies the distinction between the two, but uses it effectively as an emotional hook.

The heist itself is skillfully constructed, offering all the essentials of a proper heist. Steps are carefully and precisely played out, while mistakes are purposefully made to create tension and humor. There is excitement and there are diversions in the buildup.

There is the possibility of being caught and there is the surprise revelation after the dust has cleared on the heist. There is the necessary amount of cleverness, though the final twist plays for emotion over cleverness.

This summer, the most popular movies were the ones that evoked a certain sweetness. Logan Lucky now joins a group of such films. The coda of Baby Driver, the character motivations of Dunkirk, the boat scene of Wonder Woman, the small-scale charm of Person to Person and the love of arts in Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie are all aspects and moments of kindness that should be appreciated.

There is something special about the tenderness in Tatum’s smile as Jimmy Logan joins his daughter in her enthusiasms.

Tatum’s charm is an asset of the film along with the quiet sensitivity of his co-star, Driver. In a supporting role, Daniel Craig plays Bang and has fun with it. With his bleached hair, Craig delves into the ridiculous and does it well. He has interesting dialogue delivery and is able to bring humor to much of what he does.

Logan Lucky is a small feature that uses its scope to its advantage. The rural sensibilities, seen in the use of toilet seats as horseshoes and the reference to a popular search engine as “the Google,” create the air of pleasantness that pervades the film. The off-the-grid nature of the film and its characters works well for flavor and for plot purposes.

In its small scope, the film works well at maintaining a tightness, using everything for a purpose. The characters and their flaws are exploited. Throwaway lines about salt and cellphones become useful later on throughout the movie. The characters and the tightness all speak to a movie that was carefully and lovingly made.

The characters are not heroes for standing up to the man; they are heroes for being good people. Celebrating kindness in cinema is powerful. Tatum, the masculine symbol that he often is expected to represent, has tenderness in his caring for family and for others.

While materialism is attacked in the subtext, the real advocacy is in taking care of others. The caricatures are those who are selfish and hateful, who lie and insult. The celebrated few are those who aim for giving instead.