Wolverine is made of pain and rage. The Marvel comic hero is known for animalistic fury, mutant healing power, a hell of a haircut and, of course, those retractable claws connected to an unbreakable adamantium skeleton.
In the X-Men movies, the Canadian-born Wolverine got some grit and gristle from Australian actor Hugh Jackman. But the ensemble flicks have always somewhat sanitized his story, never really capturing the essence of the guy who — in the comics — famously unsheathes blades from his knuckles with an ominous snikt.
With the simply titled, standalone film Logan (Wolverine's civilian name), director James Mangold gives us the mutant unmuzzled.
Set in 2029, Logan takes place post-President Trump, but pre-Mad Max. It's a dreary America where dystopia seems just around the corner — there are snazzy, self-driving cars, but the gap between haves and have-nots is wider than ever. Mutants have gone the way of the dodo and the X-Men are just stories from crumbled comic books Logan scoffs at.
Our hero is little more than a half-drunk has-been, whose mutant healing power ain't healing so well these days. All he has left for company is the withered husk of Professor X (Patrick Stewart), the greatest telepath in the world reduced to a senile, ticking time bomb.
But then he crosses paths with Laura, a ferocious young girl with a connection to him. Her talents are displayed in grisly, gory glory when some armed mercenaries come after her. Heads roll — literally.
Jackman radiates regret, while Stewart, as always, is a treasure: the perfect mix of faded valour and whiny old dude. As the semi-feral Laura, Dafne Keen is astounding, performing the first half of the film mute and with a furious glare. Even Boyd Holbrook, as the villain figure sent to retrieve Laura, adds a welcome southern swagger to the mix.
Mangold evokes a western aesthetic with dusty vistas and a familiar morality play: Logan as the reluctant aging cowboy trying to hang up his guns when he's offered one last ride, a final shot at redemption.
Compared to the overwrought pathos and posturing of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Logan is a film where the hero has earned his angst. Logan's power is also a curse: he's seen the world change and is forced to bear witness.
With its well-earned R-rating, the film stands apart not due to the blood spilled, but because it also forces Logan to reckon with the consequences. With X-Men missing from the title — giving Logan some distance from the mega movie franchise — Jackman and Mangold pull no punches in taking the character's tale to his natural conclusion.
This is not a movie for everyone, nor should it be, but Logan is Wolverine doing what he does best — and it's very good.
RATING: 4 out of 5 stars