Aging X-Man Logan escorts a disabled Charles Xavier and a ferocious young girl to Canada.
Directed by James Mangold
Starring Hugh Jackman, Dafne Keen, and Charles Xavier
Initial Review by Jon Kissel
Hugh Jackman's portrayed Logan, otherwise known as Wolverine, in nine films dating back seventeen years. Over that period, the X-Men films featuring Jackman have been all over the map, spanning from the execrable to the entertaining. However, he's never been at the center of a film like Logan, his final bravura outing in the role. While the X-Men films keep getting bigger, with larger casts and greater destruction, the stand-alone Wolverine films keep getting smaller as the casts constrict and there's a turn toward the internal. That focus bears substantial fruit in Logan, by far the best X-Men film in the extended franchise, and one of the best superhero films in the present era that Wolverine and the X-Men arguably kicked off.
Jeremy Saulnier makes ugly films. Both Blue Ruin and Green Room are gritty and violent exercises that dispatch their characters at random, mid-sentence, with minimal dignity. They provide an anti-cinematic view of brutality, far away from the John Wicks and Ethan Hunts of the world. What keeps Saulnier’s earlier films from being oppressive is how quickly they move. A scene that culminates in a hacked forearm is onto the next thing, keeping tension on the viewer and preventing them from having their noses rubbed in what is some of modern cinema’s most repulsive violence. This is not the case with Hold the Dark, Saulnier’s third film and the first one he hasn’t written, instead relying on an adapted script from frequent collaborator Macon Blair. The tone of Hold the Dark, introspective and bleak and full of whispered portent, runs counter to what has served Saulnier thus far in his burgeoning career. It’s admirable for a director to try something new, but Hold the Dark is a risk that wasn’t worth taking.
S. Craig Zahler continues his efforts to bring exploitation films back from the 70’s with Brawl in Cell Block 99, a sickeningly violent prison flick and follow-up to the equally queasy Bone Tomahawk. I’m not terribly familiar with exploitation cinema, but like pornography, one just knows it when they see it. They feature extreme human behavior, prefer cool and reject beauty or elegance, have stylized dialogue, and fashion antagonists from pure evil. Tarantino does a more refined version of this, having been raised on exploitation films. The Tipper Gore-esque knock on early Tarantino was that he’s overly violent, an inaccurate accusation in at least his first three films. Tarantino pans away from ears getting chopped off, but no one could say the same of Zahler. He stares violence in the face, taking in every compound fracture and bone crunch. The result is a nigh-unrecommendable film, his second in a row. The sick feeling in one’s stomach after the credits isn’t necessarily something I want other people to experience.
Michael Mann is a director who cares about process. His debut, Thief, spent minutes watching James Caan crack open a safe from start to finish. With Manhunter, Mann founded a genre by dissecting crime scenes and murderous psychology. If one needs to know how to lay siege to a 18th century colonial fort, The Last of the Mohicans contains a handy manual. Mann’s attention to detail is as meticulous as the characters he puts onscreen, and that’s certainly true in Heat, his modern masterpiece (as opposed to Mohicans, his period masterpiece. The man’s multi-masterpieced). The director cares about competency, and he creates characters who share in that admiration even when the fruits of their practiced labors are diametrically opposed. Heat is at the pinnacle of this kind of film, wherein talented character are believably sculpted, spun up, and let loose to do their thing.
Only apple pie and John Denver come close to being as quintessentially American as guns, and “Free Fire” gives us plenty of two out of three. The night before watching “FF” I watched the first “John Wick” (because I’m often late to some parties); a highly stylized action movie with plenty of action and gun violence. I enjoyed it very much. But the violence in “Wick” was so coordinated and scripted, as it should be, that it left no illusions that it was comic book fantasy. Two shots to the gut, one to the head. Bam. That’s the assassin’s signature in movies and books.
JUST SOME IDIOTS GIVING SURPRISINGLY AVERAGE MOVIE REVIEWS.