Logan is the movie X-Men fans have been clamoring for. Sporting a hard-R rating and a weary-looking Hugh Jackman hacking and slashing his way through the United States, it's a fitting finale for Jackman that sometimes falters in its urge to please.
When last we saw Wolverine, in X-Men: Days of Future Past, he had just gone back in time to save an anti-mutant scientist from being assassinated, thus helping the world avoid a dark fate in which humanity and mutant-kind alike are hunted by killer robots while also inadvertently erasing the events of every X-Men movie Jackman had starred in from the film series' timeline. The future that Logan fought so hard to save is, sadly, not much brighter than the Sentinel-infested Future Past.
Logan now lives near the Mexico-U.S. border, working as a chauffeur in the United States while buying drugs on the black market to help control the seizures of a demented Professor X (Patrick Stewart). The pair lives in an abandoned industrial site on the Mexican side of the border along with Caliban (Stephen Merchant), an albino mutant whose powers include the ability to sense and track other mutants.
A lot has happened in the intervening years, not only to our heroes but also to the world. Mutants are no longer born, the gene that caused their creation having been isolated and controlled via medication. With no mutants born in decades and the remaining few seemingly hunted down by the authorities over the years, Logan does his best to keep his head down.
In a cruel, underexplored twist of fate, Senator Kelly (Bruce Davison), the anti-mutant politician from the original entry in the series, seems to have won the war of ideas after all.
This whole development, which feels like a rather radical bit of genetic engineering—a breakthrough in public health or a prenatal genocide, depending on your POV—gets very little play, serving more as background information than a fully developed subplot. I'm still not sure if this is a missed opportunity or a wise effort to avoid feeling the need to Say Something Important About Our Times.
Either way, the refusal to ask big questions helps keep the stakes small and the movie focused on Logan's efforts to rescue X23/Laura (Dafne Keen), a young mutant who has escaped from an experimental facility and has claws, an adamantium skeleton, and advanced healing abilities—sound familiar?—from a rogue geneticist and a group of mechanically enhanced bounty hunters known as The Reavers. A highlight of the film is Boyd Holbrook's turn as the head of the Reavers: He adds a bit of campy, psychotic fun to the proceedings that sometimes risks bogging down in somber seriousness.
Director and cowriter James Mangold takes full advantage of the film's R-rating. F-bombs are dropped with reckless abandon and there's even a moment of gratuitous nudity. Mangold kicks off the action by showing Logan literally dismember a pack of cholos trying to steal the rims off of his limo. The viciousness of The Wolverine often seen in the comics, long lusted for by fans of the character, is on full display here. Mangold's efforts to drive home the brutality occasionally verge on the pornographic, as when one action scene unfolds in slow motion with Logan going from villain to villain and—slowly, slowly—putting his claws through their bodies in rather gruesome ways.
The gratuitous nature of all this combined with the almost-tossed-off bits of world-building are occasionally a bit distracting, like a weird variety of fan service. But the movie works, for the most part, because Jackman, Stewart, and Keen do such a good job of making Logan feel like an intimate, personal movie: more oddball family road trip than sci-fi epic.