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Logan: The Wolverine does not go gentle into that good night

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Logan: The Wolverine does not go gentle into that good night

Did James Mangold know that Donald Trump was going to win the election? From drunken white yahoos in a limo chanting “U.S.A.” at the sight of detained Mexicans, to a group of young people racing from armed thugs toward the Canadian border and sanctuary, this latest visit to the X-Men universe is set in an America that has been worn out to the breaking point from too much “winning.”

Logan, advertised as Hugh Jackman’s last go-round as Wolverine, is a violent, grim chase set in the dystopian year of 2029. Logan (Jackman) is behind the wheel of the limo referenced above; it’s how he makes a living. It pays for the hard liquor he swills all day, and for the drugs he forces a decrepit old Charles Xavier aka Professor X (Patrick Stewart) to take. Hiding out with Logan and Charles in an abandoned industrial site just over the Mexican border is Calaban (Stephen Merchant), the albino mutant who can track other mutants; he’s the sober one who sort-of keeps things together.

The chase begins with the arrival of 11-year-old Laura (big-eyed Dafne Keen), a mutant. This is odd because, we are informed, no mutants have been born anywhere in decades. (This gets explained later. Don’t worry about it. Explanations are the least interesting part of any superhero flick. Once you believe a guy can sport adamantine claws, you’ll buy anything.) When the very bad guys hunting her arrive, she proves to be a lot like Wolverine.

The depths of human evil are fully plumbed here, from the corporate insanity of the Mengele-like scientist Xander Rice (Richard E. Grant) to the up-close-and-personal cruelty of his lead henchman (Boyd Holbrook, bringing back memories of a young Ben Foster) to the tragic selfishness of Charles Xavier, whose essential goodness can’t overcome the effects of dementia on a superhuman being. The repercussions of his “episodes”–and his desperate attempts to hang on to a sense of family with Logan and Laura–lead to some of the film’s most tragic moments. This is not something you usually get in this genre. Stewart brings all the majesty of the tragic hero to bear in these scenes.

Jackman’s Logan is a deeply wounded hero, emotionally and physically. He can still shred the opposition, but it’s getting harder all the time. It’s a tough part, because he’s so damned miserable most of the time, so when the lighter moments come, Jackman makes the most of them. His easy rapport with Stewart is a highlight.

Newcomer Kean doesn’t get much dialogue until the end of the picture, so she has to make her point physically, and with her eyes. She’s riveting to watch.

The most peculiar thing about Logan is the film’s completely unrelated prologue–a teaser, not really a trailer, for the second Deadpool movie; it plays before the Fox fanfare kicks in. The mocking, cruel tone of the short bit and its use of a senseless death as a punchline was effective–the audience ate it up–but it was a terrible intro to Logan.

Logan, directed by James Mangold, starring Hugh Jackman, released by 20th Century Fox

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