Logan reviewed by BRIAN VINER

    68
    0
    SHARE


    To give an indication of how raddled Hugh Jackman looks at the start of his valedictory outing as Wolverine, the mutant superhero with retractable claws and intractable melancholia, he could easily pass for Mel Gibson after a really heavy night out.

    That’s the first sign that this will be an X-Men film like no other. And so it proves, but mostly in a good way.

    I should add that there is grislier, more graphic violence than usual, not to mention an awful lot of effing and blinding, making it more like an XXXX-Men film.

    The mutant superhero with retractable claws and intractable melancholia could easily pass for Mel Gibson after a really heavy night out

    He is shaken out of his existential torpor when an intense, enigmatic young girl called Laura (brilliant newcomer Dafne Keen) is foisted upon him

    He is shaken out of his existential torpor when an intense, enigmatic young girl called Laura (brilliant newcomer Dafne Keen) is foisted upon him

    Nonetheless, for anyone getting decidedly weary of superhero movies (hands up, your reviewer), this is the perfect antidote: a movie in which nobody is wearier than our superhero himself, and one which isn’t in thrall to its own special effects.

    Unusually in the Marvel universe, which tends to fudge references to time, we learn that it is 2029 and mutantkind is dying out.

    Wolverine (or Logan to give him his human name) is down on his luck, battling an alcohol problem and reluctantly working as a limousine driver, ferrying hen parties round a dusty Texan town.

    When some thugs try to pinch his hubcaps, he dispatches them almost reluctantly. He has to work much harder at invincibility these days.

    Logan’s domestic life is no happier. His mutant mentor, Professor X (Patrick Stewart), is a shaky nonagenarian now, holed up in a ramshackle farmhouse near the Mexican border and cared for by a freakishly tall, goggle-eyed albino (played by freakishly tall, goggle-eyed Stephen Merchant). 

    His place is the nearest thing Logan has to a home. It’s not much of a life, but he is shaken out of his existential torpor when an intense, enigmatic young girl called Laura (brilliant newcomer Dafne Keen) is foisted upon him by an anxious-looking nurse who has much to look anxious about.

    The girl has special powers, too, but not, it seems, the power of speech.

    I should add that there is grislier, more graphic violence than usual, not to mention an awful lot of effing and blinding, making it more like an XXXX-Men film

    I should add that there is grislier, more graphic violence than usual, not to mention an awful lot of effing and blinding, making it more like an XXXX-Men film

    Logan’s domestic life is no happier. His mutant mentor, Professor X (Patrick Stewart), is a shaky nonagenarian now

    Logan’s domestic life is no happier. His mutant mentor, Professor X (Patrick Stewart), is a shaky nonagenarian now

    She puts the mute in mutant. But this just adds to the air of mystery as, urged by the nurse, Logan takes her and Professor X from Texas to North Dakota in search of a fabled mutant sanctuary called Eden.

    Logan is sceptical that such a place even exists. In one of many tongue-in-cheek nods at the superhero genre, he cites a reference to it in an old Marvel comic as proof that it can’t be real. He also, incidentally, gives us the full Basil Fawlty when his car breaks down, frenziedly laying into it. This might not be the funniest X-Men film of all time (that would be last year’s Deadpool), but it has a pleasing air of irreverence. That’s not to say that it doesn’t take itself seriously, however.

    Maybe that is because it unfolds less like a superhero film and more like a western — one in which an ageing gunslinger, in cahoots with a child, faces a final, defining shoot-out.

    This is not just me being fanciful, by the way. Director James Mangold (who significantly made not only the second Wolverine film but also a very good western, 2007’s 3:10 To Yuma) deliberately brings the analogy to life by sitting his characters in front of the television at one point, watching the 1953 Alan Ladd classic, Shane.

    It is Mangold’s only misstep in a film that, maybe more than anything else, showcases what a fine actor Jackman is

    It is Mangold’s only misstep in a film that, maybe more than anything else, showcases what a fine actor Jackman is

    We also get a slyly capable baddy (Boyd Holbrook), who is chasing our unlikely band the length of America on behalf of evil scientist Richard E. Grant

    We also get a slyly capable baddy (Boyd Holbrook), who is chasing our unlikely band the length of America on behalf of evil scientist Richard E. Grant

    And as in all good westerns, we also get a slyly capable baddy (Boyd Holbrook), who is chasing our unlikely band the length of America on behalf of evil scientist Richard E. Grant.

    Did I just write ‘evil scientist Richard E. Grant’? It sounds ridiculous and, frankly, looks it, too. Grant was born to play many characters, all of them rather woodenly louche. Evil really doesn’t suit him.

    It is Mangold’s only misstep in a film that, maybe more than anything else, showcases what a fine actor Jackman is. He gives a performance of genuine depth and poignancy.

    Although it is set in Cider With Rosie country, Trespass Against Us is lit not by the warm glow of nostalgia, but of caravan-site braziers and burning cars. The Cutlers are a lawless traveller family living in rural Gloucestershire on the outer margins of society.

    The commanding, track-suited patriarch, Colby, is given to sitting outdoors on an armchair, surveying his scrap of wasteland as if it were 20,000 acres of Capability Brown parkland, pontificating about God and evolution. 

    He is played, with his usual magnetism, by Brendan Gleeson. Michael Fassbender is similarly fine as Colby’s eldest son, Chad, and really this is his story, as he tries in vain to escape his father’s influence.

    Brendan Gleeson and Michael Fassbender in Trespass Against Us

    Brendan Gleeson and Michael Fassbender in Trespass Against Us

    The Cutlers are a lawless traveller family living in rural Gloucestershire on the outer margins of society 

    The Cutlers are a lawless traveller family living in rural Gloucestershire on the outer margins of society 

    For director Adam Smith, making his first feature (though he has plenty of TV experience) and presumably working with a limited budget, it’s a real coup to land Fassbender and Gleeson 

    For director Adam Smith, making his first feature (though he has plenty of TV experience) and presumably working with a limited budget, it’s a real coup to land Fassbender and Gleeson 

    Chad has promised his wife Kelly (Lyndsey Marshal) they will get a house and bring up their two children in more respectable surroundings. He is illiterate but wants his kids to have the education he never did, much to Colby’s bemusement. But the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. 

    There is a very good scene when Chad and Kelly are summoned to the children’s primary school, to be told by a teacher that the children’s absences and behaviour can no longer be tolerated.

    Meanwhile, Colby needs to keep Chad close, mainly because he’s better than anyone else at country-house robberies, and is such a fearless getaway driver that even with the police on his tail he finds time to light a cigarette.

    Although it is set in Cider With Rosie country, Trespass Against Us is lit not by the warm glow of nostalgia, but of caravan-site braziers and burning cars

    Although it is set in Cider With Rosie country, Trespass Against Us is lit not by the warm glow of nostalgia, but of caravan-site braziers and burning cars

    But in the end, and despite some well-choreographed chase scenes, this is a psychological study of a man trapped by his own degeneracy

    But in the end, and despite some well-choreographed chase scenes, this is a psychological study of a man trapped by his own degeneracy

    There are faint echoes in all of this of much bigger-scale crime dramas.

    I was even reminded of The Godfather when Chad tries to persuade his father that the real money is in internet crime, not house-breaking.

    But in the end, and despite some well-choreographed chase scenes, this is a psychological study of a man trapped by his own degeneracy; trying, in the only way he knows, to be a responsible father.

    For director Adam Smith, making his first feature (though he has plenty of TV experience) and presumably working with a limited budget, it’s a real coup to land Fassbender and Gleeson (it’s rather a surprise to find two Irishmen playing travellers yet speaking in broad Gloucestershire slang).

    They get top-class support from the likes of Sean Harris and Rory Kinnear (as the local policeman, constantly outwitted by the Cutlers).

    So there is much to admire here, but it’s still a tale of deeply unpleasant people. You won’t find anyone with whom to even vaguely empathise, let alone actually like.

    LEAVE A REPLY