The claws are out again for the X-Men's lone wolf Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), now lying low at a desert hideout with the outcast Caliban (Stephen Merchant) and an ailing Professor X (Patrick Stewart). Making a buck as a limo driver, Logan's self-imposed exile ends with the arrival of Laura (Dafne Keen), a young mutant with a shady background. She's also on the wanted list of a corporate psycho (Boyd Holbrook) and his sinister boss (Richard E Grant). Dark, disturbing and ultra-violent, this revelatory chapter of the X-Men saga is red in tooth and claw.
Richard E Grant
Classic Western Shane gets a superhero spin in this final chapter in the life of Wolverine, the retractably-clawed X-Men mutant, when he is fatally drawn into someone's else's battle.
The someone else in question is Laura (Keen), a 11-year-old mute who has escaped the oily clutches of Dr Zander Rice (Grant), an old school science fiend who is breeding children with X-tra ordinary abilities in a foreboding secure unit.
Wolverine is in no position to help abandoned kids. He's stuck in a derelict smelting factory in the Mexican desert outside El Paso with a suffering 90-year-old Professor X (Stewart) and the light-sensitive albino Caliban (Merchant).
However, when gun-toting goons led by cybernetic wacko Pierce (Holbrook) invade the compound, Wolverine is forced to act, particularly when he clocks that Laura is no slouch when it comes to burying blades into pumped-up flesh.
Piling into his stretch limo (he earns a crust as a chauffeur ), Wolverine, Professor X and Laura head north for a Canadian mutant refuge known as Eden. Not far behind - and using Caliban like a human tracker dog - Pierce is hot on their trail.
This sits a little incongruously with the rest of the X-Men universe. It's dark and violent with some genuinely disturbing adult scenes (Jackman apparently insisted on the pitch black tone) whereas Wolverine's grandstanding X-Men cohorts never really break out of children's fantasy territory.
His adamantium blades see plenty of action - slicing throats, piercing heads and gouging eyes - while there is a practically unwatchable scene in the overstretched middle which seems to have bloodily stumbled from a home invasion horror.
Yet the option to make this a character-driven story as opposed to an SFX maelstrom ensures that it actually works. Jackman imbues Wolverine with a sense of exhausted helplessness as the adamantium that once made him invincible now slowly poisons him.
The parallels with Shane are lightly worn (the 1953 classic is watched in a hotel room by Professor X and Laura) but the sense of a inscrutable man doing good deeds is both subtly and poignantly realised.
Ultimately, it's not just a movie for adults because of the death toll, it's one for the grown-ups because it actually engages the emotions. No small feat for a superhero movie.