A fitting if atypical swansong for Hugh Jackman's take on the troubled superhero, Logan is a brutal, visceral, and surprisingly, melancholic and sombre film that takes the series in a totally different direction than we've seen before. A neo western that takes explicit cues from George Stevens' Shane to offer its own version of a mysterious stranger with a violent past forming a protective bond with a young child. Here a grizzled and older Logan's incognito life as a limo driver is interrupted by an equally mysterious young girl called Laura who needs his help. Initially reluctant, he is finally convinced by an ailing Charles Xavier to deliver her to safety from a group of mercenary cyborgs called The Reavers who are attempting to capture her.

From its opening scene it's clear that this is going to be a darker, more violent and profane entry into the X-Men franchise. Largely eschewing the overwhelming visual effects that typify superhero movies and which pretty much ruined Apocalypse last year, this is a stripped down and dirty affair. Which is not to say that the film wants for effective set pieces. An extended scene at Logan and Charles' remote hideaway that reveals why the bad guys are so keen to get their hands on Laura is as gripping, tense and jaw-dropping as anything that's come before. While there are plenty of scenes where Wolverine fans get to see his Adamantium claws put to use in a way that the teen and family friendly previous films could only hint at.

Logan is at its most effective however as a character piece and both Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart really deliver in adding more depth to characters that must seem like second nature to them by now. Jackman's portrayal of a man who has almost given up on life and is plagued by guilt for those he has lost is very impressive, whilst Stewart clearly relishes the opportunity to portray Professor X as a cranky ninety year old dropping f-bombs all over the place. Boyd Holbrook as the leader of the Reavers offers us a charming and memorable villain for once, though Richard E. Grant is a little underused as his boss Zander Rice (son of a scientist killed by Wolverine). Dafne Keen makes a very strong showing in only her second film as Laura, tackling a difficult and physically demanding role with impressive assurance. And Stephen Merchant brings some welcome levity as the albino mutant Caliban, acting as caretaker of the remote hideaway and nursemaid to Charles.

Director James Mangold delivers a more confident genre mash-up here than he did with the decent if slightly disappointing Samurai-infused effort that was The Wolverine. He clearly benefits greatly from the trust of a studio that saw the success of Deadpool as proof that more adult-oriented takes on the comic book film genre can find an audience. If anything Logan is possibly an even more risky prospect than that film, because beneath the ultraviolence and bad language, Deadpool was still a traditional origin story ending with the hero saving the world amid an onslaught of CGI. There are times when it feels like Logan is deliberately fighting against that kind of film and it's all the better for it. Therefore special effects junkies may find Logan unsatisfying in that regard but audiences keen on action movies that don't pander to teens and who were invigorated by the non-stop thrills of John Wick: Chapter 2 should find much to satisfy their bloodlust here. If anything Logan has the edge over JW:C2 because it knows the value in letting its characters pause for breath once in a while.

An intense, thrilling and oddly moving film, Logan is both the Wolverine film fans have been waiting for and a worthy way for Jackman and Stewart to bow out with style.

One final word of warning, no need to stick around to the end of the credits as this bucks the usual Marvel trend of adding a post credits scene. This will undoubtedly disappoint some but the film ends on such a perfect final image that any further embellishment would have been unnecessary.

By Kevin Knapman

Logan (15)

2h 7m

Director: James Mangold
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Richard E. Grant, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant, Dafne Keen

UK Release: Friday 3rd March 2017

Logan: "You Know The Drill" Clip

Logan - Extended Preview