Hugh Jackman returns to his signature role one last time (so he says), reuniting with filmmaker James Mangold, who also directed 2013's The Wolverine. But this doesn't feel like any other X-Men movie; it strikes a sombre, gritty tone from the start to take the audience on a dark and rather brutal road trip. So while it feels rather long and repetitive, the movie also has a strong emotional kick.
It's set in the year 2029, when mutants have been wiped off the planet, and no new ones have been born for years. Hiding out in a drunken haze as a Texas limo driver, Logan aka Wolverine (Jackman) has stashed Charles aka Professor X (Patrick Stewart) across the border in Mexico, watched over by albino caretaker Caliban (Stephen Merchant). Then a nurse (Elizabeth Rodriguez) appears asking for Logan's help to transport the young Laura (Dafne Keen) to North Dakota. And Laura clearly has a genetic connection with Logan. It also turns out that she has escaped from a Mexico City hospital, so as Logan, Charles and Laura hit the road, the ruthless henchman Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) and sinister Dr Rice (Richard E. Grant) are hot on their trail.
Mangold holds all of this in careful control, never tipping over into the usual whiz-bang Hollywood superhero action chaos (the violence is especially grisly). The story moves at a steady pace that adds an involving note of desperation to each sequence. This also makes the movie feel a bit repetitive and even wheel-spinning at times. Since the baddies are able to stay right on the heroes' heels, it's clear that even a nicely offhandedly sojourn with a farmer (Eriq La Salle) and his family will be short-lived. But the gnawing intensity, while never quite building into proper suspense, gets deep under the skin as it fleshes out the characters.
Continue reading: Logan Review
Although the plot isn't particularly original, a darkly internalised tone makes this low-key thriller oddly compelling. It may be the usual serial killer nastiness, but it also pays attention to earthier themes like morality and the futility of revenge. Meanwhile, Liam Neeson is able to combine his more recent action-hero persona with his serious acting chops this time. And writer-director Scott Frank infuses the film with moody grit, quietly subverting each cliche of the genre.
The action picks up eight years after Matt (Neeson) stopped drinking and quit the police force, following a shootout that went horribly wrong. It's now 1999, and New York is in the grip of Y2K paranoia. Matt is working as an unlicensed private detective who uses word-of-mouth to find clients. So Matt is intrigued when one of his 12-step friends (Boyd Holbrook) introduces his brother Kenny (Dan Stevens), a wealthy drug trafficker whose wife was kidnapped and then murdered even though he paid the ransom. As Matt digs into the case, he realises that the two killers (David Harbour and Adam David Thompson) have a left a string of similar victims in their wake, and that the murders are connected. Meanwhile, Matt takes in homeless teen TJ (Brian "Astro" Bradley), an observant kid who helps him work piece together the clues. And together they try to figure out where the killers will strike next.
This story unfolds with a remarkably gloomy tone, combining horrific violence with introspective drama. This mixture can feel rather jarring, especially as it wallows in the nastier side of human existence. Every character is tortured in more ways than one, with lost loves, physical afflictions and internal demons. Even the smaller side roles are packed with detail, including Olafur Darri Olafsson's creepy cemetery worker and Sebastian Roche's frazzled Russian mobster. All of this adds texture to the film, a welcome distraction from the grisly central plot, which is never played as a mystery, but rather as an inevitability.
Continue reading: A Walk Among The Tombstones Review
Matt Scudder gave up his high-flying job with the NYPD after accidentally shooting dead a civilian while chasing away a group of criminals trying to rob the bar he was drinking in. Now working as an unlicensed private detective, this recovering alcoholic is enlisted by a man who wants Matt to find the kidnappers who took his ransom and murdered his wife. These kidnappers are no amateurs, however; they very meticulously choose their victims and it isn't long before they discover that Matt is looking for them. He may be used to taking down some pretty ruthless criminals, but he's never faced anything like this before and is constantly feeling as though he is one step behind his opposition. To nab criminals like these, he can't work within the law himself - but will that turn him into something he's tried so hard to avoid?
Continue: A Walk Among the Tombstones Trailer
It's only been four years since 2009's X-men Origins: Wolverine, and it's hard to see how this film does anything to correct that film's messy plot, harsh editing and uninteresting action. This one has a much more interesting Japanese setting and some great characters, but its focus on action over depth leaves it feeling gratuitous and empty. We may be entertained by the whizzy chaos of it all, but we never feel much suspense.
It begins in Alaska, where Logan (Jackman) is still licking his wounds after the death of his lover Jean Grey (Janssen), who appears regularly to him in sexy, soft-focus dreams. Then a young woman (Fukushima) turns up, insisting that he return to Japan to see Yashida (Yamanouchi), whose life Logan saved in the A-bombing of Nagasaki. But in Tokyo, Logan finds that the near-dead Yashida wants to relieve him of his healing immortality with the help of a sinister blonde doctor named Viper (Khodchenkova). Meanwhile, Yashida's son Shingen (Sanada) is miffed that his daughter Mariko (Okamoto) is the heir to his father's fortune. And there are armies of tattooed goons and arrow-shooting ninjas chasing Logan wherever he goes.
The film has a brisk pace, barely pausing to regain its breath before plunging into another massive action set-piece. But none of these sequences stands up to even the slightest scrutiny: laws of logic and physics are abandoned as the hugely muscled Logan battles everything in sight. Even after Viper steals his powers, he still has those retractable adamantium claws, which come in handy when you're fighting tenacious thugs on top of a speeding bullet train.
Continue reading: The Wolverine Review
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