"Logan" is the film to end all "X-Men" movies.
While that may seem like an exaggeration, once you watch the gritty, bruising film from director from director James Mangold, you'll see what I mean.
And this is definitely a movie you should make it a point to see, even if your interest in comic book flicks is nothing more than casual. Wearing its hard 'R' rating like a blood-stained badge of honor, the drama avoids the common pulled punches, cliches and soft-pedaling that most comic book movies use as a routine.
Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart take the opportunity to go into far more depth and weight to characters they have played umpteen times over the past two decades. Unbound by the standard rules of the played-out game, they unleash their performances with the gusto of Wolverine in full berzerker mode, slashing and smoldering to create a simmering spectacle.
Mangold and company make an end-around series continuity by setting the movie in 2029, a point at which mutants have all but been eradicated. Jackman is Logan, the erstwhile Wolverine, who has given up on superhero aspirations to grind out a depressing living as a limo driver who spends most of his money on booze and drugs to numb the pain of a frazzled existence.
One of the few things that keeps Logan going is his devotion to Professor X (Stewart), who is losing his mind and faculties to dementia. Rendered a dangerous weapon, whose mind control powers tend to rage out of control in paralyzing seizures, it's on Logan and a former colleague to keep him on his meds and hidden from nefarious mercenaries who seek to control him.
Logan eschews attachment, but he becomes the unwilling chaperone for Laura (Dafne Keen), a gradeschool-age girl endowed with Wolverine's regenerative and razor-clawed powers who seeks sanctuary north of the border. Struggling with his demons, Logan grudgingly takes her under his wing on a dangerous trek northward to oblivion.
Logan's heroism is all the more profound due to the bleak outlook. He knows his days are dwindling, yet is pulled to do what he can to make life better for the generation to follow. Shades of the misery that befell he and his kin unravel in steadily-paced backstory denouements, providing chilling reveals and profound character deconstructions. It wears its mid-20th century Western influences proudly, fusing in a Johnny Cash-inspired soundtrack.
That's not to say anything about this emotionally charged movie is soft. Combat scenes are shockingly brutal, with unrepentant gore and flashes of agonizing violence. The action scenes always ache with lament instead of playing for crowd-pleasing wows as they have in other "X-Men" flicks.
A rare film unprecedented in tone and sharpness for the genre, "Logan" could mark a tonal shift in the comic book film that could mark a new movement in maturity and relevance for its ilk. But whatever the future yields, the movie proves that the present is a wild, breathless spectacle to behold and appreciate.
RATING: 4 stars out of 4.