Logan Lucky; 120 min; Rated PG-13


I confess that when I saw the trailer to “Logan Lucky,” I did not put it on my “must-see” list. It looked, well, silly and like a dog-days-of-August filler. Trailers don’t telegraph who the director is, so I had no idea it was Stephen Soderbergh, a superb filmmaker who simply doesn’t make “filler movies,” no matter the time of year.

Regarding “Logan,” I was so wrong. This is, unequivocally, an excellent movie. It’s entertaining, comic-serious, never condescends, and its characters, to a person, are seriously good company. I liked them all.

And what a crew they are. But let’s start with the film’s anthem, John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” The setting is West Virginia, and the Logan brothers, plus sister (Channing Tatum, Adam Driver and Riley Keogh), are decent people who’ve had a long run of bad luck. Jimmy Logan, high school star football player, blew out his knee and now chronically limps; Clyde Logan lost an arm serving his country; sister Mellie, well, so far so good, but she’s still young and her last name is Logan.

Jimmy, the oldest, is divorced with a mite of a daughter, Sadie, who he adores and lives with her full-custody mom who never gives an inch (Katie Holmes). He’s also just been laid off from his construction job because the powers that be and their lawyers discover he’s got a bad knee. The job he was working on was filling a large sinkhole under the Charlotte NASCAR Speedway, and it’s there that he observes a bevy of pneumatic tubes that transfer cash from all the concession stands directly to the Speedway’s bank vault. Piles of it.

And so, feeling a bit desperate, with Sadie’s mom making noises about moving out of town with her well-heeled husband, Jimmy hatches the most improbable of heists. He recruits Clyde and Mellie who are grudgingly convinced that Jimmy’s plan just might work. As far as the audience is concerned, given the appearance of these newly minted bank robbers, it looks like a disaster waiting to happen with prison time as the outcome.

Jimmy points out that if his plan is going to work, they need an explosives expert. Clyde suggests a guy named Joe Bang (Daniel Craig). The problem: Joe (as he points out to Clyde and Jimmy) is wearing a prison onesie and is behind bars for five months. This is Daniel Craig with tattoos, bleached hair and zanily, over-the-top quirky. What a hoot this character is. Of course, Joe has two brothers who sign on and seem as dim as he is; however, like Bang, they’re wily and definitely smart enough.

Don’t forget those pneumatic tubes.

This is all head-slapping improbable. But what is wonderful and generous about “Logan Lucky” is that every character is good company. Consider this movie an antidote to the cranky, disconcerting ordeal our country is going through at the moment.

Despite Jimmy and Clyde and crew, all seeming to have pulled life’s shortest straws, none are cynical or angry or unwilling to give life, such as it is, a second and third chance.

Of course, the heist, after it happens and makes the news, is called by a TV anchor the “Oceans 7-11 Heist,” a nifty reference to Soderbergh’s franchise films “Ocean’s 11.” And in a down-home way, "Logan" is reminiscent of those slickly planned capers by guys wearing Armani, each casino job is pulled off without a hitch, the signature of the films always the hair-raising timing, which is so tight that the tension is palpable.

As an aside, if you missed Soderbergh’s “Out of Sight,” rent it. Like “Logan Lucky” it’s great entertainment (George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez). It’s so good and has the same feel. Of course “Logan” is all doublewide trailers and red state ambience. But, as I mentioned, it never condescends and remains, from first frame to the last, compelling, in an easygoing way. And maybe, just maybe, this exercise in hope is doable.