For a re­view of “Lo­gan Lucky,”

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The trailer for “Lo­gan Lucky,” the new film from Steven Soder­bergh, his first af­ter his short- lived re­tire­ment, an­nounces that it’s fromthe di­rec­tor of “Ocean’s 11, 12, 13,” and “Magic Mike.” None of his many other films are needed to po­si­tion “Lo­gan Lucky” for au­di­ences. This is Soder­bergh at his most fun, work­ing in slick heist ca­per mode, fea­tur­ing his muse of the mo­ment, Chan­ning Ta­tum.

Since Ta­tum’s phys­i­cal tal­ents are the in­spi­ra­tion for “Magic Mike,” it’s ironic that Soder­bergh has sad­dled his char­ac­ter, Jimmy Lo­gan, with a bum knee, an in­jury that killed his NFL dreams and con­tin­ues to im­pede his job prospects. Ta­tum lum­bers and limps around “Lo­gan Lucky,” por­tray­ing a charm­ing lunkhead type, and us­ing his comedic talent to power this light- hearted crime com­edy.

Jimmy’s brother, Clyde ( Adam Driver), is also phys­i­cally im­paired, sad­dled with a pros­thetic hand. He’s an Iraq vet, and in­con­gru­ously works as a bar­tender, though he mixes a mean one- handed mar­tini. Their set­backs in life make their sis­ter Mel­lie ( Ri­ley Keough) won­der about a “Lo­gan curse,” but they pay that no mind. These two de­ter­mined broth­ers may not seem like the sharpest tools in the shed, but dang if they aren’t dogged in their pur­suits. It’s sur­pris­ing, but Ta­tum and Driver make a per­fect on- screen pair.

At one point, a char­ac­ter makes ref­er­ence to “Ocean’s 7- 11,” which could have been a per­fect pithy tagline for this film. This is a de­cid­edly bluecol­lar heist film, de­void of Sin City glam, fo­cus­ing on real, if height­ened char­ac­ters. Casi­nos? Nah, they’re rob­bing the big­gest show in town — NASCAR. Laid off from his con­struc­tion job due to li­a­bil­ity is­sues from his knee in­jury, Jimmy just wants enough money to stay close to his daugh­ter, Sadie ( Far­rah Macken­zie), a spunky pageant princess with heart.

They re­cruit an in­car­cer­ated in­mate, Joe Bang, a sa­vant of home­made ex­plo­sives, to bring the fire­power to their plan to rob a vault of con­ces­sions cash un­der­neath the mo­tor speed­way. The trailer cheek­ily an­nounces, “and in­tro­duc­ing Daniel Craig” as Joe, and it’s ap­pro­pri­ate; Craig’s un­rec­og­niz­able, in­spired, South­ern­fried per­for­mance is as far from 007 as you can get.

The screen­play is cred­ited to a “Re­becca Blunt,” a writer who doesn’t seem to ex­ist. Some have the­o­rized that Soder­bergh’s wife, for­mer E! host and nov­el­ist Jules As­ner might have writ­ten it, or Soder­bergh him­self. He has never shied away from us­ing a pseu­do­nym. Nev­er­the­less, the story is so clearly Soder­berghian, it had to have sprung from his brain or his in­ner cir­cle.

In his heist films, Soder­bergh is pre­oc­cu­pied with sys­tems of places — the Rube Gold­berg ma­chines and math­e­mat­i­cal equa­tions that make things run. “Lo­gan Lucky” is no dif­fer­ent, fo­cused on the care­ful and clever plan­ning and ex­e­cu­tion, al­ways with a trick up its sleeve, a shock­ing re­veal of the se­cret plan in­side the plan. The script does get too caught up in the plan, un­for­tu­nately los­ing mo­men­tum at the cli­max.

There are also a few char­ac­ters around the edges that feel ex­tra­ne­ous to the cen­tral story— an an­noy­ing en­ergy drink pusher played by Seth MacFar­lane with a cock­ney ac­cent; a gravely toned FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tor played by Hi­lary Swank. But for all its is­sues, “Lo­gan Lucky” is just so warm­heart­edly en­thu­si­as­tic, it’s hard not to get swept away with this group of not soav­er­age Joes.

“Lo­gan Lucky,” a Bleecker Street re­lease, is rated PG- 13 for lan­guage and some crude com­ments. Run­ning time: 119 min­utes. ★★★

“Hit­man’s Body­guard”

If you’re feel­ing nos­tal­gic for a ’ 90s- style buddy ac­tion com­edy with some early 2000s edge, “The Hit­man’s Body­guard” is the film for you. Re­cy­cling vin­tage char­ac­ter types, tropes and even pol­i­tics, “The Hit­man’s Body­guard” al­ready feels like you’re half watch­ing it on TNT on a Satur­day af­ter­noon.

Directed by “The Ex­pend­ables 3” di­rec­tor Pa­trick Hughes, the script by Tom O’Con­nor could have been writ­ten in 2005 and never up­dated, as a ripoff Tarantino that thinks swear­ing stands in for wit, with the kind of ca­sual sex­ism and ob­jec­ti­fi­ca­tion of women that movies got away with be­fore we all got sick of it.

But this is a film that lives and dies on its stars, and Sa­muel L. Jack­son, as the hit­man, and Ryan Reynolds, as the body­guard, work­ing within their al­ready wellestab­lished per­sonas, make for a fine pair of un­likely part­ners, and hit a few wellplaced punch­lines with ex­pert de­liv­ery. Jack­son, in par­tic­u­lar, is a treat towatch, whether sing­ing Ital­ian folk songs with nuns, or dol­ing out love ad­vice via speak­er­phone dur­ing a car chase.

The plot con­cerns tes­ti­mony that the hit­man, Dar­ius Kin­caid ( Jack­son), is sup­posed to give against a blood­thirsty Be­larus­sian dic­ta­tor, Vladislav Dukhovich ( Gary Old­man). In ex­change for the re­lease of his feisty wife, So­nia ( Salma Hayek) from a Dutch pri­son ( it’s never ex­plained why she’s in pri­son, how­ever), Kin­caid prom­ises to of­fer proof of Dukhovich’s war crimes.

When the In­ter­pol trans­fer of Kin­caid goes south, agent Amelia Rous­sel ( Elodie Yung) calls up an old boyfriend for backup, an “ex­ec­u­tive se­cu­rity agent” who’s fallen on hard times, Michael Bryce ( Reynolds). Bryce and Kin­caid have a long and thorny his­tory as ad­ver­saries, so their 24- hour jaunt from Eng­land to Am­s­ter­dam proves to be quite event­ful. Thanks to Dukhovich’s thugs, who are try­ing to pre­vent Kin­caid from tes­ti­fy­ing, it’s also vi­o­lently ac­tion- packed.

It’s un­for­tu­nate that “The Hit­man’s Body­guard” hits U. S. the­aters this par­tic­u­lar week­end — it’s no fault of the dis­trib­u­tor, but it’s un­likely au­di­ences will be en­ter­tained by the mul­ti­ple scenes of evil hench­men plow­ing ve­hi­cles through quaint city squares, mow­ing down in­no­cent by­standers.

The film demon­strates a hyp­o­crit­i­cal at­ti­tude about mur­der— while Kin­caid and Bryce race across town to in­dict a dic­ta­tor for mur­der­ing civil­ians, they re­morse­lessly leave a wake of bloody bod­ies in the streets. They’re bad guys, but the tricky moral­ity doesn’t quite gel.

More­over, the vi­o­lence of “The Hit­man’s Body­guard” is thud­dingly, ex­haust­ingly dull. It’s not shot in any par­tic­u­larly in­ter­est­ing way, the cin­e­matic ge­og­ra­phy is mush, and the stunts and ac­tion chore­og­ra­phy are noth­ing to write home about. As the film pushes the twohour mark, it just be­comes a bor­ing blur.

Speak­ing of blur — Hughes shoots ev­ery scene with open win­dows pro­vid­ing back­light, cre­at­ing a gauzy haze through­out the whole film. It makes no sense why ev­ery scene looks like the lens has been smeared with Vase­line. It doesn’t even soften the edges of the bru­tally bad CGI.

The prob­lem with “The Hit­man’s Body­guard,” aside from the dodgy film­mak­ing craft, is that this story is the least in­ter­est­ing tale to tell about these char­ac­ters. The flash­backs, to Kin­caid’s first kill, and his meet- cute with So­nia, are juicy snip­pets of sto­ries that­would have made for a bet­ter movie. This film should have traded the hit­man’s body­guard for his wife — she’s the most com­pelling char­ac­ter in it.

“The Hit­man’s Body­guard,” a Li­on­s­gate re­lease, is rated R for strong vi­o­lence and lan­guage through­out. Run­ning time: 118min­utes. ★ ½


Salma Hayek, left, and Sa­muel L. Jack­son star in “The Hit­man’s Body­guard.”

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