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Review: 'Logan Lucky' is sure to put a smile on your face

Adam Driver, left, and Channing Tatum star in "Logan Lucky." 

Director Stephen Soderbergh, I’m so glad you’re back on the big screen.

After he directed the wonderful “Side Effects” in 2013, Soderbergh publicly said he was going to retire, and he transitioned to TV, in particular “The Knick.”

Now he’s back with “Logan Lucky,” a kind of hillbilly heist comedy with the most interesting cast so far this year. The heist involves stealing a bunch of case form a vault at a North Carolina speedway during a NASCAR event.

Its quirky characters, which resemble the assemblage you might find in a Coen Brothers film, are a likeable but exasperating lot. Channing Tatum is Jimmy Logan, a construction worker who finds himself jobless. In desperation, Jimmy decides to steal some cash from a NASCAR track.

He needs a crew, of course, so he begins by enlisting his family. His one-armed brother Clyde (Adam Driver) is reluctant at first. After all, their family is cursed, he points out – something is bound to go wrong. Their sister Mellie (Riley Keough, “American Honey”) has some clever ideas to contribute.

They need a safecracker (isn’t there a safecracker in nearly every heist movie?) And so they choose a convict named Joe Bang (Daniel Craig, apparently having the time of his life while he leaves his Bond character far, far behind.) Joe is a surly, tough character with bleached-blonde hair.

Joe is incarcerated, so part of the plan involves sneaking Joe out of the joint and then back in. And regardless of the other characters around him, Craig owns the screen in every scene in which he appears.

Part of what’s fun about this flick is that it offers a minimum of violence – hence its well-deserved “PG-13” rating – but still maintains its edgy tone.

Driver and Tatum have played eccentric people before, and it’s fun to see them in their role as siblings in a family full of odd ducks. Tatum’s Jimmy is so likeable – he doesn’t want to hurt anybody, and he obviously adores his cute daughter -- that you’ll root for him to succeed in his criminal activities.

To add to the fun of this quirky film, its screenwriter, Rebecca Blunt, may or may not exist. Soderbergh always has had a penchant for using pseudonyms, so he may have written it himself.

Regardless of whoever wrote it, the movie is a lot of fun, with some real belly laughs sprinkled throughout, mostly because of its characters’ comical idiosyncrasies.

If you have enjoyed Coen Brothers movies such as “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” and other Soderbergh films such as “The Informant!” you’ll luck out with this ensemble of engaging oddballs.

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Film critic/reporter since 1985 at Quad-City Times. Society of Professional Journalists, Broadcast Film Critics Association and Alliance of Women Film Journalists member. Member of St. Mark Lutheran Church.