ByAngelo Delos Trinos, writer at Creators.co
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Angelo Delos Trinos

Logan, the final film for Hugh Jackman's star-making role, Wolverine, may seem a bit out of place in the landscape of X-Men movies, typified by themes of superpowered discrimination, but this is to be expected from director James Mangold. Prior to directing Logan's comeback in The Wolverine, Mangold defined his directorial skills with a mix of hard-hitting action movies and character pieces that painted larger than life figures in a very human light.

Before Logan hits cinemas in March 2017, here are three movies Mangold directed that should be checked out to see how Mangold's past films helped shape his second Wolverine movie.

First, check out the trailer for Logan:

Cop Land

Sylvester Stallone as Sheriff Freddy Heflin
Sylvester Stallone as Sheriff Freddy Heflin
  • Year of Release: 1997
  • Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Robert De Niro
  • Box Office: $44.9 million

When Mangold's bleak crime thriller Cop Land was released, the genre was swamped with zany and bombastic crime movies aping Quentin Tarantino's signature style. Consequently, Cop Land is often forgotten and overlooked, which is a pity since the film features dark gangland storytelling and fine performances --in particular, one of Sylvester Stallone's best non-Rocky roles.

Set against the backdrop of a shady community populated by New York's finest, Cop Land finds Stallone's unlikely hero between a rock and a hard place when his loyalties to the police force are tested by his duty to possibly implicate another cop for recent crimes. Despite fighting what looks like a lost battle, Stallone's character pursues the truth at all costs, even if he stands to lose a lot by the end. The setting of Cop Land is a cesspool of corruption, violence, and loss - not too different from the post-mutant world of Logan.

The local population of 'Cop Land'
The local population of 'Cop Land'

As seen in both his biopics and action movies, Mangold has a knack for telling stories centered on cynical yet determined heroes who must redeem themselves in a hopeless world. Cop Land showcases this theme in spectacular fashion; it should be given a shot with or without Logan's upcoming release.

Walk The Line

Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash and Reese Witherspoon as June Carter
Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash and Reese Witherspoon as June Carter
  • Year of Release: 2005
  • Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon
  • Box Office: $186.4 million
  • Notable Award: Academy Award for Best Actress for Reese Witherspoon as June Carter

The Johnny Cash biopic Walk The Line is, in some ways, as familiar as biopics get, but Mangold's cinematic adaptation of the country icon's life stands tall. Thanks to Mangold's direction, what could have been just another melodramatic biopic is an emotional and heartfelt retelling of Cash's life.

Walk The Line served as a homage to a musician Mangold greatly admires, and this admiration can be felt even now. The first Logan trailer used Cash's cover of the Nine Inch Nails song 'Hurt' to good effect, driving the promised emotional weight of Wolverine's last ride. His choice to use Cash's cover wasn't just because it was sung by his favorite singer, but because the song resonated well with Logan.

'Hurt' is actually Cash's last song, and he died seven months after filming its music video. Cash's final song had a morose yet frank take on death, making it a bittersweet fit for Logan's final fight. In Logan, Logan is a pale shadow of the unstoppable fighter he once was. The lyrics of 'Hurt' help put Logan's current situation into words, and it's nothing short of depressing to see the former mutant badass alone and broken. To see where Mangold's real life inspirations for Logan's musical choices and themes stem from, check out the director's tribute to his favorite country singer.

3:10 To Yuma

The main cast of '3:10 To Yuma'
The main cast of '3:10 To Yuma'
  • Year of Release: 2007
  • Starring: Christian Bale, Russell Crowe
  • Box Office: $70 million
  • Notable Awards: Academy Award for Best Original Score and Sound Mixing

Mangold has described Logan as a Western, and if his remake of 3:10 To Yuma is anything to go by, the new film will be a very different kind of superhero movie. 3:10 To Yuma had the perfect blend of action and drama while adding a level of grit, heart and humanity not seen in the original movie from 1957.

Instead of pitting a saint against a killer, 3:10 To Yuma painted its character in a fair light and put them in physical and emotional peril. As the bullets flew, morals were questioned and old wounds were reopened. 3:10 To Yuma also examined what motivates heroes and villains, making the movie an impressive character study while providing a new look at an old, outdated genre. Not only was 3:10 To Yuma a great modern Western, but it was also so good that it all but eclipsed the original movie.

Ben Foster in '3:10 To Yuma'
Ben Foster in '3:10 To Yuma'

By the time of Logan, meanwhile, the hero has lost his drive seen in previous X-Men movies. Still, Logan answers the heroic call one last time when a child is put in the gunsights of the mutant-killing Reavers. That narrative -- a retired fighter going back into action for a good cause -- isn't rare in Westerns, and this time it's fitting that the story will be told by a man who has experience in the genre. Loneliness and redemption define the best Westerns, and Logan could join the likes of 3:10 To Yuma even if its main character uses adamantanium blades instead of revolvers.

James Mangold on the set of 'The Wolverine'
James Mangold on the set of 'The Wolverine'

Mangold may not be the first name some would think of when it comes to superhero movies, but perhaps this is for the better. The best directors working in the superhero business all have career defining works that have little to do with superpowers. This just shows that these filmmakers are not bound to the genre's restraints when the opportunity to direct the next Marvel or DC movie comes along.

James Mangold's Wolverine movies felt more like serious character pieces instead of fanboy excess, and the change in tone turned the once lackluster Wolverine spin-off series into one of the most emotional takes on the superhero mythos. With Logan slowly closing in, there's no better time to check out the director's previous works and see how far he's come.

Poll

What's your favorite James Mangold film? Which one would you recommend to a friend?