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Well, they are sure sending Wolverine out in style. And a big, oozing blaze of glory.

Writer/director James Mangold, who also brought us the first Woverine stand alone movie, has created a drama that owes as much to the great classic Westerns (‘Shane’ is referenced here) as it does to its original XMen DNA. The year is now 2029. Most of the Mutants are gone and Wolverine is eeking out a living as a limo driver, trying to care for his ill surrogate father, Charles Xavier, now hidden away in Mexico. But a woman is insistent: she begs for him to drive her and her daughter up to the North, to a place where they can escape to the safety of Canada.

Of course, we know this isn’t going to go well. Unwittingly, Logan winds up in his now beat up chassis, hauling his ‘family’ away from a gnarling team of bad guys, led by an impressive Boyd Holbrook and a surprisingly compelling Stephen Merchant. Along the way, they try to help Eriq LaSalle’s family, victims of greedy developers. In so doing, our anti-heroes enjoy the best and worst of American prairie settlement life. I always appreciated the XMen mantras of accepting differences in one another. In this branch of the chapter, we get a few undeniable morality lessons, ones that pack a rather political punch, too. But don’t worry: nothing’s going to hit you over the head if you don’t want it to. They’re too busy hitting each other to spend that much time trying to teach anybody watching a lesson.

Hugh Jackman, of course, brings a great integrity to the complicated role of Logan. His allowances for tenderness here are smartly underplayed, making them all the more traditionally ‘manly’.  Young Dafne Keen, as a child born to wreak a special kind of havoc, does a fine job, but it’s Patrick Stewart who gives this gritty modern Western its soul. Who won’t feel a stab of pain, watching a father figure physically and psychically suffer? But the sweetest rewards of all come from watching the two actors, almost wordlessly, show us love, shared by an adult man, caring for the dying man who raised him.

Fellow chickens like me probably shouldn’t eat a whole lot before digging in to the very bloody, very incessant violence here. And, as I witnessed first hand, small children who love Wolverine should not  accompany their parents to this final chapter of their hero’s life. A poor little six year old boy was sobbing mercilessly, inconsolable, as we all left the screening I attended. Everybody else, though, had a great time.

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