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New Release Review - The Wolverine

Wolverine is called to Japan by a man whose life he saved during World War II.

Directed by: James Mangold
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Will Yun Lee, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Famke Janssen, Hal Yamanouchi


During the 1945 atomic attack on the Japanese city of Nagasaki, Logan (Jackman), aka The Wolverine, finds himself held captive in a prisoner of war camp. When one of the camp's officers, Yashida, opens the hatch on Logan's underground pit, Logan pulls him down and shields him from the bomb's blast, revealing his mutant regenerative powers to the officer in the process. Cut to present day, and Logan is living a nomadic existence in the wilds of the Yukon territory when a young Japanese girl, Yukio (Fukushima), persuades him to leave for Japan where Yashida is approaching death. Once there, Yashida (Yamanouchi) pleads for Logan to allow him transfer his regenerative powers to his body, through a process Yashida has developed, one which will end Logan's immortality while saving Yashida.
Despite the poor box office returns and critical hammering of 2009's 'X-Men Origins: Wolverine', Jackman has been given another opportunity to sport the sort of sideburns usually only seen on currency. This time Hollywood seems to be focusing on the Asian market, relocating the action to the land of the rising Yen. Could this be the first major Hollywood production not to feature one single American actor?
The plot, what little exists, is a mix of 'The Bourne Identity' and 'The Last Samurai', as Jackman and Okamoto find themselves chased across Japan by a variety of Yakuza/Ninja stereotypes. Director Mangold seemed like a good choice for this sort of flick, having shown with his 2007 '3:10 to Yuma' remake that he knows how to helm an impressive action sequence. That movie's climactic shootout is arguably the most exciting set-piece of the last ten years but there's nothing to match it in 'The Wolverine'. The action on display here ranges from blandly staged martial arts to ludicrously over the top chases. There's a lack of respect for physics which renders many sequences laughable, in particular a fight atop a speeding bullet train.
A new movie cliche which has appeared in recent years is to have a character be unaware of action occurring behind them due to the wearing of headphones. It provided one of the best moments of last year's 'The Amazing Spider Man' but it just provokes groans in its employment here. That moment serves as a minute metaphor for the movie as a whole; uninspired, unoriginal and with a general air of disinterest from the parties involved (although Fukushima gives her all, despite playing the most cliched example of the "cute but tough" Asian chick). Jackman is a charisma vacuum and watching him mope and moan his way through over two hours of this nonsense is an endurance test. By the time the obligatory giant robot suit makes its appearance you'll be clawing your eyes out.
The modern comic book movie fad began with 2000's 'X-Men' and 13 years later shows no signs of dissipating. This is one dead horse Hollywood execs seem intent on flogging for quite a while yet, even if they have to look beyond America's borders to do so.
2/10


Eric Hillis

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