Director: James Mangold
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant, Dafne Keen
Running Time: 137 minutes
Release Date: March 1st
You watch the trailer as the old familiar sting comes into play. The knee-jerk reaction is to roll the eyes and mutter wearily. Really? Johnny Cash’s version of ‘Hurt’, really? I mean, I get the ‘last days of a legendary outlaw’ mirror but are we not done with… hey wait that was actually kind of poignant and great.
Sick of superhero action? Me too. Logan is different, and it goes beyond the obvious – yes, it’s violent and yes the word ‘fuck’ features a lot, for which you can thank Deadpool. It’s not the full reinventing of the wheel some have already claimed but it’s a great story and the perfect punctuation mark on Hugh Jackman’s service in the name of arguably the only interesting X-Men character to ‘grace’ the silver screen over the past 17 years.
That franchise is arguably the greyest in the game thanks primarily to the leaden direction of Bryan Singer but it appears nobody really knew or knows what to do with the source material. Refreshingly, James Mangold and his writing team of Scott Frank and Michael Green get that ‘less is more’ especially in this age of costumed fatigue and so they keep things wonderfully simple, harkening back to classic Western stories of yore, right down to explicit hat tips in the direction of Shane.
There are shades, too, of Mickey Rourke’s devastating turn in The Wrestler as Logan, now eking out a living as a chauffeur for braying rich kids and hen parties, finds time finally catching up to him. In a world where mutants aren’t just hunted and oppressed but almost entirely extinct, he attempts to procure enough cash so that he and a deteriorating Charles Xavier may retire and live out their days in peace on the high seas. And we all know how such dreams usually go in the movies…
Sure enough, an increasingly bruised and booze-soaked Logan finds himself with no other choice than to protect a young girl – newcomer Dafne Keen, who steals most scenes she’s in – with whom he has a couple of very specific traits in common. What follows is a road movie both gloomy and oddly life-affirming as Boyd Holbrook – good value as a smarmy gold-toothed prick who desperately wants to best the legendary Wolverine – and his fellow enhanced mercenaries keep close pursuit.
An often rather overlooked actor – go watch The Fountain if you’ve never seen it – Jackman is truly excellent here, imbuing a character he clearly loves with every inch of pain, conflict and turmoil he can muster. It’s career-best work and a worthy tribute to all of his hard graft. Logan also provides a fine grace note for Patrick Stewart, too, even if you may find his initial stream of profanity vaguely comical. Some tropes prove unavoidable, most notably a final act which though thankfully free of tired ‘portal in the sky’ nonsense is slightly weaker than what has come before.
A small complaint in a highly admirable and well-executed love letter in which, at what is technically the ninth time of asking, somebody finally found a way.