Out on Friday 3 March
Wolverine returns for his best stand-alone movie. Kelly Reichardt’s short stories go a long way. Michael Fassbender gets in trouble with the cops.
Yes, here's this week's new releases. Click on for our reviews of Logan, Certain Women, We Are X, Fist Fight, Trespass Against Us, Viceroy's House, Headshot, and The Student.
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“What a disappointment you are,” chides Professor Charles Xavier to Logan in this third and most certainly final solo outing for Hugh Jackman’s Marvel mutant hero. Barely sleeping, bleary-eyed and booze-addled, with streaks of grey hair running through his beard, the Wolverine is a shadow of his former self. When he’s accosted by a group of Mexican thugs, he’s punched and beaten before finally summoning up those adamantium claws and ripping through skulls.
Inspired by the Mark Millar/Steve McNiven comic Old Man Logan, this second James Mangold-directed Wolverine outing finds the character at his lowest ebb. Scratching a living as a chauffeur, driving drunken high-school grads to casinos, he’s long past the glory days spent with his fellow X-Men. Only the aged Professor X (Patrick Stewart), barely keeping a grip on his sanity or his powers, is around to keep him company.
Together, they live in a desert outpost near the Mexican border, joined by albino mutant Caliban (Stephen Merchant, taking over from Tómas Lemarquis, who played him in X-Men: Apocalypse). Set roughly three decades from now (at one point, Charles watches 1953 western Shane, noting it’s almost 100 years old) the film deliberately doesn’t bring us an outlandish future. Only the high-speed, driver-less auto-trucks suggest we’re not in 2017.
The plot kicks into gear as Logan encounters a nurse, Gabriela Lopez (Elizabeth Rodriguez), who implores him to drive her and her young charge Laura (Dafne Keen) to North Dakota, promising $50,000. Already, Logan has been accosted by the metal-handed Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook), who’s on the lookout for escapee Laura. Pierce is chief muscle at Transigen, a sinister, crucial-to-the-plot company (run by Richard E. Grant’s Zander Rice) that specialises in growing mutants.
After a series of shocks and plot swerves, Logan, Charles and Laura go on the run – but not before Mangold gleefully shows just why this girl is so special. Athletic, acrobatic and fearless, she’s what you might call a chip off the old block. To Wolverine’s surprise, she boasts adamantium claws too – and she knows how to use them. Is she Logan’s daughter? He’s in denial and she won’t utter a single word.
Making her big-screen bow, the ultra-limber Keen is glorious as the brooding Laura, who is trying to head for Eden, a place of safety across the border. How some will react to the sight of this young actress slicing, dicing, severing and goring her opponents remains to be seen, though; her actions are startlingly violent at times, right up there with Chloë Grace Moretz’s gun-toting turn as Hit-Girl in Kick-Ass.
As for Logan, after the previous lacklustre solo Wolverine outings, not to mention the middling Apocalypse, it’s heartening to see Jackman play up the character’s vulnerabilities. “Bad shit happens to people I care about,” he tells Laura, showing a side of him we’ve rarely glimpsed – world-weary, worn-out and “fucked up”, as he put it. Meanwhile, a hunched-over Merchant is an excellent foil as Caliban, a tracker mutant with skin that blisters painfully in daylight.
From a brilliant casino-set Professor X ‘paralysis’ sequence to a surreal battle of the self (in what feels like a nod to the Terminator franchise), not to mention a secret weapon that alarms even Wolverine, Logan is full of juicy surprises. But what impresses most is how, for once, this is a comic-book film that has the guts to wrap things up. “What a disappointment”? Uh-uh. This is a fine, fitting finale for the movies’ greatest mutant.
THE VERDICT: The best stand-alone Wolverine movie by a mile. Bloody and brutal, funny and freaky, it’s the real deal.
Director: James Mangold; Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Boyd Holbrook, Richard E. Grant, Stephen Merchant; Theatrical release: March 1, 2017
After inching in the vague direction of the mainstream with the low-key genre thrills of Night Moves, Kelly Reichardt here makes her most delicate film to date, adapting a trio of stories by Maile Meloy into a graceful snapshot of the everyday lives of three Montana women.
Small-town lawyer Laura (Laura Dern) pursues an injury claim for construction worker Fuller (Jared Harris); Gina (Michelle Williams) goes on a camping weekend with her husband (James Le Gros) and moody teenage daughter (Sara Rodier); and a Native American credited only as The Rancher (Lily Gladstone) seeks a connection with Beth (Kristen Stewart), a young law tutor. Between them the tales involve a hostage situation, infidelity and thwarted romance, but the drama is muffled and melancholy, and all the richer for it.
Just as Reichardt eschews Hollywood pyrotechnics, so she refuses to amplify thrills and underline connections by hopping between the tales, cutting and colliding. Events unfurl at their own pace, favouring texture over titillation, and the lived-in performances resonate long after the credits roll. Certain Women won’t challenge Transformers 5 at the box office, but it’s a deeply affecting triumph.
THE VERDICT: Kelly Reichardt’s discerning, awards-laden drama plays things quiet but is one to shout about.
Director: Kelly Reichardt; Starring: Laura Dern, Michelle Williams, Kristen Stewart, Lily Gladstone; Theatrical release: March 3, 2017
We Are X
So extravagant they make Muse look like Oasis, glam-prog metallers X Japan make fascinating material for rock-pic maker Stephen Kijak in his briskly enjoyable, if faintly earnest doc. Kijak focuses on Yoshiki, the drummer whose theatrical image hides many traumas.
Family losses, brainwashed buddies: it’s all here. More interrogative interviews might have offset the whiff of adulation and occasional Spinal Tap-isms, but Kijak finds poignancy behind the pomp as he builds to a fist-pumping finale. Admiring contributors include Stan Lee.
Director: Stephen Kijak; Theatrical release: March 2, 2017
Forget superhero smackdowns: 2017 is the year schlubby schoolteachers come to blows. Ice Cube and Charlie Day are the combatants in this comedy, where pedagogue and pushover throw down after classroom confusion leads to betrayal.
C+ gags and D- supporting characters sabotage the final grade, but a perma-livid Cube is the star pupil and the brutal playground punch-up doesn’t disappoint.
Director: Richie Keen; Starring: Ice Cube, Charlie Day; Theatrical release: March 3, 2017
Trespass Against Us
Michael Fassbender stars in this fitful character study/crime yarn set in a traveller community. Chad (Fassbender) and dad Colby (Brendan Gleason) come to blows with cops, locals and each other in a story that strives for authenticity but never binds into anything meaningful.
Still, there’s Fassbender’s charisma, an unhinged Sean Harris and Tom Rowland music.
Director: Adam Smith; Starring: Michael Fassbender, Brendan Gleeson, Lyndsey Marshal; Theatrical release: March 3, 2017
Gurinder Chadha does Upstairs Downstairs in this polished period piece set in 1947, during the partitioning of the British Indian Empire.
Starring Hugh Bonneville as Lord Mountbatten (the man partly responsible for dividing the subcontinent), the film is more successful upstairs than down, with the Indian characters largely mired in insipid subplots. Fascinating story, flawed telling.
Director: Gurinder Chadha; Starring: Hugh Bonneville, Gillian Anderson, Manish Dayal; Theatrical release: March 3, 2017
When amnesiac ‘Ishmael’ (Iko Uwais) washes ashore, Bourne-style, he knows only two things: a) his old gang is after his head, and b) how to fight. Headshot is thinly plotted, but with action choreography by Uwais’ team, the mayhem is staged with visceral abandon.
The Raid star remains an electrifying, inventive fighter, even fending off a machete-wielding foe while handcuffed to a table.
Directors: Timo Tjahjanto, Kimo Stamboel; Starring: Iko Uwais, Chelsea Islan, Sunny Pang, Julie Estelle; Theatrical release: March 3, 2017
The cosy alliance between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Putin regime inspires Kirill Serebrennikov’s disturbing parable, with student Veniamin (Pyotr Skvortsov) acting as a stern moral arbiter even the local priest is intimidated by.
Skvortsov gives a scarily grim-faced performance, with biology teacher Elena (Viktoriya Isakova) increasingly beleaguered as the only one resisting him.
Director: Kirill Serebrennikov; Starring: Yuliya Aug, Viktoriya Isakova, Pyotr Skvortsov; Theatrical release: March 3, 2017