Hugh Jackman’s turn as Wolverine has always been one of the highlights of the X-Men movie franchise. But the hairy loner with the killer claws who reluctantly comes to the aid of the mutant outcasts has been sidelined in recent years, until now.
In Logan, the Australian actor’s last turn as the mutant after 17 years, 48-year-old Jackman returns to the spotlight without the distraction of an army of mutants with dazzling abilities.
The movie, which takes its title from Wolverine’s real name, follows the protagonist as he and Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) must cope with the aftermath of the loss of the X-Men when a corporation lead by Nathaniel Essex is destroying the world.
Set in 2029, an old, grizzled Logan drives a limo around the border town of El Paso, and drinks to numb the horrors from decades of fighting. Across the Mexican border, in a disused factory, he looks after an ailing Professor X, the founder of the superhero group, with the help of Caliban (Stephen Merchant), an albino tracker mutant. The professor needs constant medication to control his destructive telepathic tantrums.
In his second X-Men film, James Mangold (The Wolverine) mines the western genre for a modern rendering of Logan’s quest to protect a girl, Laura Kinney (Dafne Keen), who has escaped from the Transigen facility run by evil surgeon Zander Rice (Richard E. Grant), in Mexico City. Mangold signposts his homage showing us clips from classic western Shane (1953), in which Alan Ladd’s gunfighter makes a last stand.
Laura, played by newcomer Keen, is delivered to Logan via a nurse who worked at the facility (Elizabeth Rodriguez). She has a lot in common with the mutant and it’s not long before we see just how similar to Logan she is; in their first pitched battle against Rice’s gang of militaristic henchmen, led by Narcos star Boyd Holbrook as cyborg Donald Pierce, Laura helps destroy many of them in vicious scenes, which explains the movie’s R-rating. Such a certificate is rare in the superhero world and Jackman’s insistence on going for it means Logan is hyper-realistic in its depiction of violence and when the action comes it’s brutal, bloody and well choreographed.
While Logan is reluctant to get involved with the girl, after the ambush he is left with no choice but to head for the border with the professor and Laura, who plans to reunite with the other children from the Transigen facility to head to safety in Montana.
The movie sees Jackman show the full range of his acting ability in a pared down, gritty performance as the character he debuted almost two decades ago. There’s less overblown superhero cliché, and more is made of the relationships between the tight knit cast of characters.
The physicality of his performance is impressive and Spanish speaking Keen, who makes a stunning debut as the lab bred killing machine desperate to get to safety, is a revelation, holding her own against seasoned professionals.
With both Jackman and Stewart tipping the movie as their final superhero outing, Logan is a fitting farewell, and shows a new direction for the genre, which grounds it more in reality, and less in theatrics dressed up in spandex.
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