Recipe for a sharp-clawed Wolverine story: 1) Make sure he's upset. 2) Send him to Japan. The most resilient of all X-Men gets a flight out to the land of the rising sun in this franchise spin-off sequel. The big-haired mutant – played for the sixth time by the bulked-up Hugh Jackman – has taken a battering in recent years, with his first solo outing four years ago (X-Men Origins) being well below par. Thankfully, the latest – loosely based on the definitive Chris Claremont/Frank Miller 1982 Marvel Comics mini-series – is a moody noir-ish piece which manages to capture the one-known-as-Logan's internal rage and various personal existential crises.
Probing into the now not-so indestructible Canadian's bitter pain at losing his love Jean Grey – a ghostly Famke Janssen – the film benefits from a well-paced and mature narrative. Key to the movie is the angry Canuck's portrayal of a rōnin – explained more than once as 'a samurai without a master'. Once he is entrusted with protecting a business leader's daughter from Yakuza gangs, dodgy politicians and a vicious foreigner known as Viper, the whole becomes similar to its lead: vigorous, lean and well-defined.
The Wolverine | Directed by James Mangold (USA 2013) with Hugh Jackman, Famke Jansen, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Will Yun Lee, Svetlana Khodchenkova. Starts July 25.