Logan Lucky (12A) opens with Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) being laid off from his job as a construction worker helping to underpin the structure of the Charlotte Motor Speedway, the home of NASCAR. In dire need of funds to legally challenge his ex-wife’s right to move to another state with their daughter, Sadie (Farrah Mackenzie), Jimmy decides to rob the Speedway, and assembles a less-than-crack-crew of heisters: his one-armed brother Clyde (Adam Driver), notorious (but incarcerated) safecracker Joe Bang (Daniel Craig), and Joe’s simple-minded brothers Fish (Jack Quaid) and Sam (Brian Gleeson), their efforts overseen by Jimmy’s sister, Mellie (Riley Keough). Written by Rebecca Blunt and directed by Steven Soderbergh, Logan Lucky is an hilariously downbeat homage to, and spoof of, the classic heist flicks, including Soderbergh’s own Ocean’s Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen. The casting is superb, with Daniel Craig in particular in scene-chewing form as a hillbilly safe-cracker, but it’s the subtlety of the relationships that make Logan Lucky work, and especially that between Channing Tatum and young Farrah Mackenzie – the moment when little Sadie bursts into John Denver’s Take Me Home, Country Roads is a two-tissue weepy. You get value for money with this movie: it’s a heist movie so clever that it also functions as a how-to if you’re wondering how to make a heist movie, and it also manages to shoehorn in a prison break that requires the escapees to break back into prison. It’s not quite perfect – no movie is – but as a comic tale of inept criminals biting off more than they can chew, Logan Lucky is up there alongside Fargo and Get Shorty. Opening in 1978, and based on a true story,
American Made (15A) stars Tom Cruise as Barry Seal, a TWA airline pilot with a subversive streak of mischief. When Seal is approached by CIA agent Schafer (Domhnall Gleeson) and offered the opportunity to do a little freelance reconnaissance work, he quickly accepts, only to find himself smuggling drugs, guns and money in and out of various Central American republics and rubbing shoulders with such worthies as Pablo Escobar and Manuel Noriega. Written by Gary Spinelli and directed by Doug Liman, American Made offers only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Barry Seal’s tortuously convoluted history as a smuggler, but even so there’s more than
enough here to make for an entertaining action-adventure romp. Tom Cruise is in typically energetic form as the amiable Seal, portraying the life-long smuggler as a sweet but dumb fall-guy who simply loves to fly, and who can’t believe his luck when the money starts pouring in. The tale treads a well-worn path, but Liman keeps the story belting along at a cracking pace, blending action sequences with historical footage and investing it all with dollops of black humour. Domhnall Gleeson doesn’t get a huge amount of screen-time, but he does a fine job as the slippery CIA agent Schafer, even if the comic tone largely undermines any notion of American Made being an exposé of America’s black ops in Central America.
Detroit (15A) opens in 1967, during the race riot that took place on July 25, and centres on the Algiers Motel, where the police have rounded up a group of black men they believe to have opened fire on the police. Led by Patrolmen Krauss (Will Poulter) and Demens (Jack Reynor), the white policemen violently interrogate the men, along with the two white women discovered at the Algiers, in an increasingly tense tale that explodes into cold-blooded murder. Written by Mark Boal and directed by Kathryn Bigelow, Detroit is a haunting tale of naked racism that couldn’t be more timely. Much of the action takes place in the claustrophobic confines of a hallway in the Algiers Motel, a veritable melting-pot of late-1960s America where the worst excesses of Jim Crow repression, as represented by Krauss and Demens, collides head on with the Civil Rights era and the peace-and-love ethos espoused by hippy chicks Karen (Kaitlyn Dever) and Julie (Hannah Murray). Poulter is a blandly satanic presence as the cracker cop incensed by the possibility of white women sleeping with black men, and he gets strong support from Reynor, playing a none-too-bright co-conspirator, and Anthony Mackie as one of the victims who refuses to be cowed by Krauss’s brand of summary justice. John Boyega, meanwhile, is quietly brilliant in a very difficult role, playing a security guard attempting to tamp down the reactions on both sides, but regarded as an Uncle Tom by his peers. Kathryn Bigelow delivers a masterclass in sustained tension, delivering a powerful, unsettling drama that doesn’t flinch at portraying the racist brutality, and which offers no easy answers or pat consolations.