Logan Lucky Personifies the “Little Guy” in a Divided America

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Houston Coley, Journalist

This weekend, Steven Soderbergh made his return to the big screen after a four-year hiatus – and with it, he brought a film that builds on his previous repertoire while also creating something that’s entirely new and refreshingly entertaining. Soderbergh is the man behind the OCEANS movies – OCEANS 11, OCEANS 12, OCEANS 13 – and more recently, the MAGIC MIKE films starring Channing Tatum. More than anything, looking back at his previous film career after seeing LOGAN LUCKY gives you a sense that maybe it was all building to a film like this one.

LOGAN LUCKY tells the story of a Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum), a construction worker in West Virginia who has recently been laid off of his job because someone noticed that he has a limp – an injury he got in his short-lived career as a football player in high-school – and the company thinks it could be a liability he could use against them in court. From the start of the film, Logan represents the little guy abused by “the man” in his environment. He’s mistreated by his employer, he’s demeaned by a popular racing star who starts a bar-fight with him, and he’s looked down upon a little by his ex-wife, who’s living a life far wealthier than his own. To the average onlooker, he’s a redneck. White-trash. Who knows why he lost his job, but he probably deserved it, right?

This is where the OCEANS 11 element comes into the picture – or, as the characters in the film refer to it in a meta reference, the “Oceans 7/11” element. Now out of work and told that his ex-wife might move to another state, leaving him with no way to see his daughter, Jimmy Logan decides now’s a better time than ever to get back at “the man” – and the audience is on board with him. With the help of his one-armed brother, Clyde (Adam Driver playing a similarly mistreated character), and the eccentric heist-planner, Joe Bang (Daniel Craig), Jimmy hatches a plan to steal a load of money from the NASCAR raceway in Charlotte, North Carolina – because he has a way into things at that raceway that nobody else does.

Before he was let go, Jimmy was working on a mining job below the raceway where he discovered that the tubes which transported money from above-ground to a huge vault below were exposed due to the construction work. And he still knows the way to the tubes. The money, so to speak, is theirs for the taking.

The rest of the film plays out like an energetic and exhilarating “good ol’ boy” take on OCEANS 11 with fun characters like Craig’s Joe Bang assisting the brothers Jimmy and Clyde Logan in their quest to steal the money from the raceway before they get caught. Lots of shenanigans and close-calls ensue. It’s joyous and well-edited fun, and the cast is just a delight to watch onscreen, with Craig disappearing into his peculiar role as a redneck escape artist and Driver adding a nice dose of dry humor to the entire operation. But that’s just the surface of the story.

The thing that makes LOGAN LUCKY stand out from the rest of the crowd is the subtext of the story and the characters, especially in today’s environment. Recently, with the elections of 2016 and the passionate cry by some against the removal of Confederate Statues (just to name a few issues), the voice of the “little guy” has become more prominent in the media and in the culture. People didn’t think Trump could win – I know I didn’t – but it was the silent majority who put him into office, and now that silent majority is ceasing their quiet. The people who felt like they were being abused and misunderstood by “the man” wanted someone more like themselves in power? They’re becoming a louder presence, for better or worse. Movies, too, have been reflecting this shift and portraying the “little guy” as more sympathetic than ever before. LOGAN LUCKY personifies focus, as we’ve discussed, but other movies in recent memory have had hints of the little guy theme as well. July’s SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING featured Michael Keaton as The Vulture – the first big Marvel villain who wasn’t a billionaire or a Demigod. No, instead, The Vulture was nothing more than a working class man who felt like he was abused by the high-and-mighty heroes of New York, like Tony Stark and The Avengers. The “little guy” in a world of gods and monsters. Spider-Man, too, felt this tension in the film as Spiderman tried to live up to the godlike heroism of Iron Man but found himself resolving to be more of a “friendly neighborhood” superhero than anything else.

It’s not just superhero movies that reflect this new sense of voice that the “little guy” wants. The Best-Picture nominated movie HELL OR HIGH WATER from 2016 had a much similar plot to LOGAN LUCKY in the sense that it was about two backroads country boys abused by those in power who had decided to take their vengeance on “the man” by robbing banks. The theme of taking back what was rightfully yours reigns true in both films, reflecting the sense of nationalism and “America First” that many Trump voters claimed when they checked his name on the ballot box. It’s no coincidence.

Above anything else, LOGAN LUCKY is just a great film to see in a theater. It’s laugh-out-loud funny, it’s endearing and heartfelt, the pacing and timing are clever and succinct, and in some ways, you could say it’s an improved OCEANS 11 that reflects our current time. Daniel Craig is a standout, too. But what makes the movie even more compelling is the way it gives empathy and a voice to the little guys, and makes you root for them in a way you might not have otherwise – even if they’re robbing a raceway. And in the end, that’s what cinema is for, isn’t it? To give people new perspective and understanding for worlds seen as smaller or different than their own.

According to the MPAA, LOGAN LUCKY is rated PG-13 (for language and some crude comments.)

Sources Cited:

 

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5439796/

https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/logan_lucky/