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Hugh Jackman returns for the fifth time as the sideburned mutant Wolverine, and after his lacklustre origin story, the overcrowded mouthful that was X-Men Origins: Wolverine, he’s back to his former gruff and grizzled best.

Mining Chris Claremont and Frank Miller’s comic book for inspiration, director James Mangold and a screenwriting trio take Wolverine to Japan where he is stripped of his powers by evil green mutant Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova) and embroiled in a Yakuza-fuelled power fight going back to a Japanese soldier he saved from a WW2 Nagasaki-destroying A-bomb.

Essentially, it’s Jackman’s self-healing mutant Logan vs legions of somersaulting, masked ninjas. And when he isn’t taking them on mano-a-mutated-mano, he’s brawling atop a speeding bullet train. 

The Wolverine forgoes the usual superhero movie route – invading alien force needs to be stopped by a super-powered ultra-man – for a samurai-meets-Western take on the comic book genre and focuses more on Jackman’s famous on screen alter-ego than his own origin movie did.

It does gift him the odd wisecrack, but the tone is weighted more towards the serious – this is a back-to-basics brawl as the bare-chested one leaps from one kinetically-choreographed grapple to another.

It’s not a revelation, and throws in the odd movie cliché (an unneeded romantic subplot for one). But Wolverine’s banter with Fukushima’s bad-ass – looking like a Battle Royale survivor – engages, and it injects enough new blood into this formerly headed-off-the-rails series to ensure Wolverine will live to fight another day.    

Good for: Wolverine / Jackman fans disappointed by the character’s last two movie outings.

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Rila Fukushima


The Wolverine - film review: Hugh Jackman returns to the role that made him famous
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