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Watch ‘Logan Lucky,’ Then Watch These Movies

We recommend eight movies to watch after you see Steven Soderbergh’s latest.
By  · Published on August 19th, 2017

The return of Steven Soderbergh to the big screen is something to celebrate. The filmmaker had announced his retirement but arose to direct Logan Lucky, another enjoyable heist movie in the spirit of his Ocean’s trilogy. In honor of the occasion, it’s been a time to revisit Soderbergh’s career, maybe do a personal ranking of his filmography on Letterboxed, or perhaps stick just to the Channing Tatum collaborations if you’re short on leisure hours. In anticipation of the new release, we also recommended essential heist movies to watch before seeing Logan Lucky.

Now it’s time for our weekly list of movies to watch after. As much as I wanted to avoid inclusion of more heist movies, that was pretty much impossible. Logan Lucky is little more than its plot, story-wise. Same as those Ocean’s movies — which I also intended to exclude but ultimately settled on one installment of the franchise for a certain reason. Find out why below along with seven other picks.

Armored Car Robbery (1950)

Heist films often involve crimes committed during big set pieces, and sporting events are among them. Logan Lucky might be the first to use a NASCAR race for its backdrop, but in the past we’ve seen Ben Affleck’s 2010 movie The Town, which features a robbery at Boston’s Fenway Park, Stanley Kubrick’s 1956 classic The Killing, which depicts a heist at a horse racing track, and the 1951 Italian film Four Ways Out, directed by Pietro Germi and co-written by Federico Fellini, where the crime takes place during a big soccer match. Sadly, the last one isn’t available in the US.

Before all of those, Richard Fleischer’s Armed Car Robbery set its robbery at the old Wrigley Field in Los Angeles. The crime is rather quick and occurs completely outside the ballpark — cheers punctuate the soundtrack, though, so we know there’s a game going on inside — as a gang steals from an armored car during its pickup of the stadium’s cash. Most of the movie follows the aftermath of the heist, which goes wrong but is not entirely unsuccessful. Due to the Hays Code still being at play, though, all the criminals are eventually caught or killed and the police detectives are therefore the main heroes. That’s not a spoiler, because those were the rules.

Speedway (1968)

Hardly one of the best Elvis musicals, and not one of his box office successes, Speedway wasn’t even the first or the second Elvis vehicle to put him behind the wheel of a race car. But it was apparently the first movie to give proper credit, in the opening titles, to the NASCAR drivers performing the racing footage. Stock car legends Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough, Buddy Baker, Tiny Lund, G.C. Spencer, Roy Maine, and Dick Hutcherson all appear as themselves, too — as opposed to making cameos as cops and guards and other minor roles, like the NASCAR stars on screen in Logan Lucky. Also playing itself in Speedway is the Charlotte Motor Speedway, site of the heist in Soderbergh’s movie. Logan Lucky also shot some scenes at the real North Carolina location, though the Atlanta Motor Speedway doubles for Charlotte for many scenes. Speedway wasn’t totally filmed at Charlotte, either, of course, as you might be able to tell with the musical numbers.

Speaking of those sequences, Speedway does have one benefit over other lesser Elvis movies by having Nancy Sinatra (daughter of Frank, who starred in the original Ocean’s 11) play the female lead and perform her own, Lee Hazelwood-penned solo number, “Your Groovy Self.” Her duo with Elvis, “There Ain’t Nothing Like a Song,” is not such a good use of her talents, but at least she got to be the first artist who isn’t Elvis to have a solo tune on an Elvis movie soundtrack. As for the plot, which involves Sinatra playing an IRS agent who falls for Elvis’s income tax-delinquent race car driver, we can just pretend that the possible Logan Lucky sequel will see Hilary Swank’s FBI agent striking up a romance with Adam Driver’s character.

Speed Zone (1989)

Here’s an interesting bit of association: NASCAR’s first commissioner, legendary motorcycle racer Erwin “Cannonball” Baker, was the posthumous namesake and inspiration for the Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash, aka the Cannonball Run. The cross-country race inspired a number of movies, including CannoballGumball RallyThe Cannonball Run, Cannonball Run II, and Speed Zone. The last three make up a trilogy, though this final installment (also known as Cannonball Fever in some markets) was barely connected to the previous two, and unlike The Cannonball Run and Cannonball Run II involved none of the Rat Pack. It does, however, feature a cameo from Richard Petty.

Although not quite the equivalent in terms of a quality drop from the original installment, the fact that Logan Lucky seems like a fourth entry in the Ocean’s franchise (initially a remake of a Rat Pack movie) but involving all different characters makes it kind of the Speed Zone to Ocean’s Eleven‘s The Cannonball RunSpeed Zone is technically Cannonball Run canon given the brief appearance of Jamie Farr’s Sheik Abdul ben Falafel character, while Logan Lucky is outside Ocean’s canon given that it features a reference to those movies during a news report labeling the speedway heist as “Ocean’s 7-11” (unless it’s set in the same universe, one where “Ocean’s Eleven” is a real famous casino heist taking its name from a man never officially linked to the crime). Logan Lucky also nearly starred Matt Damon, one of the main Ocean’s ensemble, as a different character.

O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)

Had Logan Lucky been a serious crime film, it might have fallen under the classification of “hillbilly noir,” and then I’d have to recommend the necessary Thunder Road, starring Robert Mitchum as a moonshine runner (a profession historically tied to the origins of NASCAR). But Logan Lucky is a goofy caper, more reminiscent of a Coen brothers crime comedy.  Specifically this Coen brothers crime comedy, even if the two movies are set in very different time periods.

There is no big heist in O Brother, just a trio of often-dumb convicts who escape their chain gang to retrieve a treasure that one of them has buried (there’s also a small bank robbery scene). Logan Lucky has a handful of often-dumb characters, some of them convicts who have to make an escape, and one of them only seems to agree to a big job because the treasure he buried has already been found and stolen away before he could retrieve it. The ringleader in both movies also has a few interactions with an ex-wife and their daughter(s).

If you’ve never seen this Depression-era musical, loosely based on Homer’s “Odyssey,” then you’ll want to just to get the reference made in so many Logan Lucky reviews, including New York magazine (“a touch of the Coen Brothers’ Raising Arizona and O Brother, Where Art Thou?“), the New York Post (“there are shades here of Raising Arizona and O Brother, Where Art Thou? for sure”), RogerEbert.com (“filled with dimwitted braggarts—think Raising Arizona or O Brother, Where Art Thou?“), the Boston Globe (“striped prison pajamas that wouldn’t be out of place in a road-show revival of O Brother, Where Art Thou?“), and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (“feels like Ocean’s Eleven meets O Brother, Where Art Thou?“), among many more. I guess see Raising Arizona, too.

Ocean’s Twelve (2004)

It should be a given to see Ocean’s Eleven, the best of the Ocean’s trilogy, before or after Logan Lucky in order to get why everyone’s comparing the new movie to Soderbergh’s other capers. The structure, including the flashback reveal of the twist in the third act, is pretty much the same. And Soderbergh has made his own comments about the similarities, here to Entertainment Weekly:

On the most obvious level, it’s the complete inversion of an ‘Ocean’s’ movie. It’s an anti-glam version of an ‘Ocean’s’ movie. Nobody dresses nice. Nobody has nice stuff. They have no money. They have no technology. It’s all rubber band technology, and that’s what I thought was fun about it. It seemed familiar to me, but different enough. The landscape, the characters, and the canvass were the complete opposite of an ‘Ocean’s’ film. What was weird is that I was working as a producer on ‘Ocean’s Eight’ while we were shooting ‘Logan,’ and it was kind of head-spinning. That’s like a proper ‘Ocean’s’ film. This is a version of an ‘Ocean’s’ movie that’s up on cement blocks in your front yard.

You’re fine sticking with just the first Ocean’s movie, but the second one is recommended here because it’s one that a lot of people dismiss as being a disappointing sequel. But there are also a lot of defenders who recognize that it’s a meta-movie masterpiece. While Logan Lucky makes a direct meta reference to the Ocean’s movies, Ocean’s Twelve is secretly self-referential, if you trust the brilliant analysis of Matt Singer from a few years ago:

Ocean’s Eleven have been forced to make a “sequel” against their will, which must be bigger than their last heist, which was already the biggest heist ever. Somehow, they’ve got to make this sequel specifically for an audience that knows them and all their old tricks — and will be scrutinizing every move they make. Most of ‘Ocean’s Twelve,’ then — the scheming, the planning, the bickering, the forced enthusiasm, the seeming disinterest — is not actually the heist at all, which occurs off-camera midway through the film. The rest is all the “very elaborate show” done for the benefit of The Night Fox and his surveillance cameras — or for the audience watching in the theater or at home. Who, in the end, are just as fooled as he is.

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006)

When it comes to comedies involving NASCAR, Talladega Nights is still king, and many moviegoers are sure to be reminded of the movie when they see Logan Lucky. Both movies had the support of NASCAR despite the minor negative aspects of their portrayals of the racing operation. Logan Lucky features a bit of fictional insurance fraud committed by the company and the Charlotte Motor Speedway, while Talladega Nights contains full-on satire of NASCAR and the culture surrounding it. But this movie is also beloved by NASCAR professionals and fans because its lampoonery is full of love and respect.

The parts of Logan Lucky that remind me most of Talladega Nights are those scenes with Sebastian Stan as a famous NASCAR driver and Seth MacFarlane as his sponsor, owner (or head) of an energy drink brand. They’re the least important and least interesting and least enjoyable characters, and those scenes could have been cut and the movie wouldn’t hurt as a result. But that shouldn’t reflect badly on this recommendation because it’s a just a poor reminder of how hilarious Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly are in Talladega Nights as a famous NASCAR driver and his best friend/team member, respectively. Especially when they become temporary enemies.

Remote Area Medical (2013)

Another minor character who could probably have been cut, though not because she’s not enjoyable, is Katherine Waterston’s medical practitioner love interest. But the fact that her part does exist in the movie means I don’t have to choose some NASCAR film (NASCAR The IMAX Experience, I guess) as this week’s obligatory documentary. Instead I can recommend one specifically relevant to her kind of healthcare service. Remote Area Medical is about one short-term pop-up health clinic, organized by the titular non-profit organization, set up in a spot very relevant to the plot of Logan Lucky: a NASCAR stadium. People from all over the area are seen traveling to and camping out at the Bristol Motor Speedway in Eastern Tennessee in order to line up and get their first medical and dental checkups in years.

I also recommend a 2014 segment of 60 Minutes called “The Health Wagon,” in which Scott Pelley rides along with two women driving a Winnebago-based clinic around Appalachia to offer free health services to people in rural areas with no medical care facility in the area. The RV featured in the show had some problems of its own, which is similar to the one in Lucky Logan having an alternator issue. You can check that out if you have 60 Minutes All Access. There might be other healthcare documentaries out there that showcase something like the Health Wagon but Remote Area Medical, which is primarily an observational spotlight on RAM without any direct political rheetoric, is a good first introduction to the subject.

Hell or High Water (2016)

While most critics went for the Ocean’s Eleven meets Raising Arizona/O Brother, Where Art Thou? comparison, my immediate take after seeing Logan Lucky was “Ocean’s Eleven meets Hell or High Water.” The new Soderbergh has the tone of the former and the fraternal crime drama of the latter. It’s not nearly as serious as the Best Picture nominee, but it does share a lot of the same kind of serious backdrop. In Soderbergh’s movie, you’ve got brothers dealing with hard financial times, and there’s issues abound in the context of the stories, from guys being laid off, being insurance liabilities for having preexisting conditions, that mobile health clinic that’s obviously making up for healthcare industry problems, and more. Logan Lucky is farcical in its approach but its world is still very grounded.

While Logan Lucky stars Star Wars villain Adam Driver and X-Men actor (really, eventually, we hope) Channing Tatum as brothers who rob a NASCAR speedway because they’ve got nothing else going on despite having been military and sports heroes that their community now ignores. But really they’re just trying to get rich. Hell or High Water stars Star Trek lead Chris Pine and X-Men actor Ben Foster as brothers who rob a bunch of banks because their home is about to be foreclosed on, and really they just want to be able to reap the riches that will come with the discovery of oil on that very property. Logan Lucky sometimes seems to be making fun of the Southern life it portrays, though, unlike Hell or High Water, which is very respectful of its characters and their kind.

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.