Logan: Wolverine bows out in ultra-violent style
Hugh Jackman returns as reluctant superhero Wolverine in the James Mangold-directed Logan, which could be the much-loved Marvel character's swansong. David Roy discovers if they've given him a fitting send-off
SNIKT! James Mangold's second Wolverine flick offers a no-holds barred swansong for one of Marvel's cult-iest comicbook heroes by placing brutal emphasis on the physical and emotional carnage that's part and parcel of being a metal-enhanced mutant superweapon of advancing years.
Don't let that 15 certificate fool you – the violence in Logan is raw and bloody as hell: the gore starts flying every time those famous adamantium claws come out, with attackers losing appendages like they were going out of style.
The famously irascible character himself, played as ever by Hugh Jackman, is also in particularly unsavoury form in this film which represents a seismic shift in tone for a hitherto family-friendly franchise.
Set in a fairly bleak looking 2029, a couple of decades after new mutants have apparently stopped being born, our grisled former X-Men anti-hero has turned his back on deeds of daring do in favour of living a booze-addled existence as a hire service limo driver on the US/Mexico border near Texas.
Logan makes ends meet by ferrying obnoxious prom-night teens, boob-flashing bachelorette parties and suited and booted businessmen across the national divide and into Mexico's hedonistic party zones.
He's also tasked with keeping his former mentor Professor X (Patrick Stewart) – now in hiding, with only albino caregiver Caliban (Stephen Merchant) for company – supplied with sedatives which keep the doddery seizure-prone nonagenarian from wreaking psychic brainwave-powered destruction every time he has an 'episode'.
As indicated by its title – which follows in a cinematic tradition established by Sylvester Stallone in his pair of franchise-reboot flicks Rambo and Rocky Balboa – this film is very much centred on James 'Logan' Howlett the man rather than his X-Men alias.
The Logan in this film is a battered, burned-out husk of his former self, disillusioned and disheartened as never before and facing up to an unexpected mortality which years of effortless mutagen-enhanced self-healing has not prepared him for.
Tellingly, this is the first X-flick to go 'meta' by explicitly referencing the existence of an X-Men comic series inspired by Wolverine and co's past exploits, memorably dismissed by the be-clawed one as "ice cream for bed wetters".
"Maybe a quarter of it happened and not like that," he growls, before adding: "This is real life and in real life, people die."
As mentioned previously, people do die in Logan – lots of them and in an ultra-violent manner, be they common criminal car strippers, the mech-limbed henchmen of 'security specialist'/bounty hunter Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook from Narcos) in the employ of mad scientist Dr Zander Rice (Richard E Grant), or innocents who happen to get tangled up in the latter's hunt for a young Mexican girl.
Laura (an impressively feral Dafne Keen) is not quite the harmless, quiet as a mouse kid she appears to be.
Indeed, Logan is shocked to discover he has a lot in common with this mute pre-teen, whom he reluctantly takes under his wing.
The middle of the film centres on a perilous cross-country mission undertaken by Logan, Laura and the dangerously unstable Professor X, offering some amusing road movie style moments in the company of this highly unconventional 'family' unit, who are barely keeping a step ahead of Pierce and his goons.
Pleasingly, Logan eschews the now tiresome 'CGI-enhanced mega-destruction finale' trope of the modern superhero movie in favour of a good old fashioned hand-to-claws kill-fest which sees Logan re-embracing his role as an angry bad guy-shredding machine with blood-soaked gusto.
Mangold employs the classic western Shane as a key reference point for Logan: characters quote its dialogue, while he and writer Scott Frank draw upon its famous story of a career killer drawn into a fight between good and evil for their tale of a conflicted 'hero' unable to escape his own destiny.
"Right or wrong, it's a brand," says Alan Ladd as Shane, glimpsed briefly on a motel TV set.
"A brand sticks."
If Logan should be the final outing for the Wolverine brand, Mangold, Jackman and co are certainly putting this stand-alone X-Men franchise out to pasture on a memorably gritty high.
LOGAN (15, 137m) Drama/Thriller/Fantasy. Hugh Jackman, Boyd Holbrook, Patrick Stewart, Doris Morgado, Stephen Merchant, Dafne Keen, Elizabeth Rodriguez. Director: James Mangold
Released: Friday March 3, special previews on Tuesday February 28 at 10.23pm.