Friday, March 3, 2017


Opening this week: 

Logan The Marvel superhero Wolverine, a Canadian mutant with regenerative powers verging on invincibility and long, claw-like blades he can distend from his knuckles, has been around in the comics since the ‘70s. He’s been played in the movies by Hugh Jackman since 2000, and this latest, which goes by his walking-around name of Logan, is said to be Jackman’s last.

This one finds Logan, haggard and careworn, working anonymously as a chauffer in a U.S./Mexico border town and supporting the dementia-afflicted Professor X (Patrick Stewart). The two men become guardians of Laura (Dafne Keen), a little girl with mutant powers remarkably similar to Logan’s, right down to the claws and the tendency to use them. Soon they’re all on the run from corporate forces led by a drawlingly evil security chief (Boyd Holbrook) and a mad scientist (Richard E. Grant).

The director is James Mangold, who previously helmed The Wolverine in 2013, and whose earlier movies include the 2007 remake of 3:10 to Yuma and 1997’s High Noon-ish police drama Cop Land. His work often shows the influence of the classic westerns—the underdog facing powerful enemies with moral rectitude on his side. With Logan, Mangold overtly indentifies his hero with the title character in Shane, but he also infuses a strong, even heavy-handed streak of religious allegory into the story—this is Shane meets The Last Temptation of Christ. With extendable claws.

Mangold creates an atmosphere of dusty, ochre-toned defeat, and the actors match it. Jackman may never have done better work onscreen than this portrait of grudging, exhausted compassion, and Stewart’s enfeebled warmth is touching. Both have a rapport with silent, spooky Dafne Keen. Among the supporting cast, both Stephen Merchant as Caliban, a sort of mutant-bloodhound who has become Professor X’s caregiver, and Elizabeth Rodriguez as a desperate nurse add to the movie’s tragic flavor.

As with the other Wolverine flicks, I greatly enjoyed this gritty, gripping, melancholy chase picture, even though I was never a devotee of these comics. Be forewarned, though: With severed limbs and heads and bloody shootings and impaled henchmen from beginning to end, Logan is probably the most gory superhero movie I’ve ever seen (though I missed last year’s notorious Deadpool).

Despite this splatter, I was prepared to appreciate any superhero flick that didn’t climax with a bunch of skyscrapers collapsing into rubble, not to mention any movie that closes with Johnny Cash’s “The Man Comes Around,” in its entirety, under the end credits. With superhero flicks, one should never assume anything is final, but if this truly is Jackman’s farewell to the role, then Cash gives him the perfect swansong.

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