The Wolverine
Five Stars (out of five)
2013. Released by 20th Century Fox Home Video. Running time 126 minutes. Rated PG-13 for violence and gore. Closed captions, and English subtitles. This was reviewed on DVD on January 17, 2014.

You annoy the Wolverine, you get the claws! After the horror that was X-Men Origins: Wolverine, I was plenty worried about this one. But The Wolverine turns out to be a superb addition to the ever-growing collection of superhero films being churned out by Hollywood. Taking place after the events of X-Men The Last Stand, The Wolverine has our clawed and mutton chopped hero strike out on his own in the wilderness, where he picks fights in bars with hunters who illegally kill bears. Interrupting one such righteous ass-kicking being delivered by Wolverine is Yukio (Rila Fukushima) a sword-wielding little spitfire who tells Wolverine that heís needed in Japan.

Oooo, Wolverine! Always wanted a pic of him.... Apparently, back when Wolverine was a prisoner of war in a Japanese labor camp, he saved the life of a young army officer when the atom bomb was dropped by the United States Air Force. The young officer became a wealthy industrialist in Japan who is now on his deathbed. He would like to see the man who saved his life one last time, and so Wolverine goes to Japan, where the bulk of the film takes place (the entire film was actually shot in Australia, with some exterior shots filmed in Japan). Wolverine finds himself dealing with assassins, a mutant named Viper, and the Silver Samurai.

I don't mean to bug you, but on your way back from the X-Men meeting, could you get milk? Director James Mangold had worked with Hugh Jackman once before, on Kate and Leopold. He also directed the 3:10 To Yuma remake and Knight and Day. He does a supreme job at handling the directing chores on The Wolverine, turning what could have been just another superhero flick into a hard-assed action film that still manages to offer ruminations about life and death. Wolverine has imaginary visitations by Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), the love of his life who did not survive the events of The Last Stand. These scenes offer valuable insight into a character who ordinarily doesnít do much talking.

You look like you need to scratch your nose, Bub.... The Japanese influence is also most welcome, giving a much needed fresh slant on a story that has plenty of great action set pieces (a battle between Wolverine and several assassins on the roof of a speeding bullet train is a spectacular highlight), while always keeping the focus on its fascinating star. Wolverine, especially how Jackman plays him, is the most popular of the X-Men (he's certainly one of the brightest stars of the whole Marvel Comics Universe) and itís great to see this memorable character finally receive a worthy showcase in a first-class production like this. Looking forward to the next saga that Wolverine appears in, which is hinted at the end. --SF

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