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The world can be a grim and ugly place when you cannot exist safely. This is the world of “Logan.”

Once, the world was full of mutants. Now it is 2029, and mutants have all but vanished. Logan, who once was an X-Man called Wolverine, hides out on the Mexican border, earning money as a rental limo driver. He lives in the isolated ruins of a former smelting plant where he takes care of Charles Xavier, a powerful, elderly telepath who suffers from dangerous seizures, with the help of an albino mutant named Caliban.

Logan’s world begins to fall apart after a woman hires him to take a girl named Laura to a secret rendezvous point in North Dakota. When the men hunting Laura find him, Logan is forced to take Laura and Charles on the run.

So begins “Logan,” a movie that owes as much to Western films, particularly 1953’s “Shane” which it makes direct references to, as it does to the superhero genre.

“Logan” has many elements that would be at home in a Western: a world-weary outlaw struggling against encroaching civilization, a journey across the American West, struggles over land and water rights, and even a little horse wrangling.

Another thing that sets “Logan” apart is its focus on characters. The movie spends a lot of time exploring the fraught relationship between Logan and Charles as well as the tense emerging relationship between Logan and his new ward Laura.

A strong cast compliments the character-focused narrative. Hugh Jackman disappears into his role as the bitter and desperate Logan. Patrick Stewart gives an equally powerful performance as the frail but willful Charles Xavier. The young Dafne Keen is outstanding as the taciturn Laura and comedian Stephen Merchant proves his dramatic chops as the tragic Caliban.

This isn’t to say that “Logan” isn’t an action movie. The character-building story is frequently punctuated by kinetic and bloody fight scenes as Logan must struggle against increasingly steep odds to protect those he cares about. The action is generally well-choreographed and well-shot.

“Logan” certainly isn’t going to revolutionize superhero movies, but it does stretch the genre’s boundaries and shows depth doesn’t necessarily detract from action-movie excitement.

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Wesley Teal is a Courier movie reviewer. Reach him at newsroom@wcfcourier.com.

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