Blessed with the Asian cinema royalty of actors Tony Leung and Michelle Yeoh, and the acrobatic excellence of fight co-ordinator Andy Cheng, Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings is brimful of eastern promise and largely delivers on it.
Pirouetting gracefully onto the Marvel Cinematic Universe diversity bandwagon that started rolling at breakneck speed with Black Panther, director Destin Daniel Cretton’s fantastical romp through post-Avengers: Endgame worlds introduces richly-drawn new characters with some of the franchise’s most breathtakingly balletic action sequences.
Bruising martial artistry on a runaway articulated trolley bus heightens the adrenaline-pumping delirium with a flurry of roundhouse kicks and flashing blades while one-on-one fisticuffs on the edge of a bamboo forest nod reverentially to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
A frenetic chase along the scaffolding of a gleaming high-rise marries vertiginous thrills with silent cinema slapstick when a loose plank upends into the face of an oncoming henchman.
Actor and stuntman Simu Liu takes the title role by the scruff of the neck, performing many of his own acrobatics, while co-star Awkwafina brings tenderness to her scene-stealing comic sidekick with a penchant for burning rubber.
One glaring mis-step is the reintroduction of Sir Ben Kingsley’s theatrical ham Trevor Slattery from Iron Man 3, sporting a Liverpudlian accent, who is completely redundant aside from one high-octane scene as a human GPS.
Shaun (Liu) and best friend Katy (Awkwafina) work as hotel parking valets in San Francisco and break up the monotony of their day by taking a guest’s turbo-charged motor for a spin along the wildly undulating streets.
Content to idle through life, Shaun and Katy pay scant regard to a friend’s warning that they are now “living in a world where half the population can just disappear”.
On the way home, the workmates are attacked by hulking assassin Razor Fist (Florian Munteanu) and his goons, who demand Shaun hands over a pendant that once belonged to his mother (Fala Chen).
Shaun unleashes a dizzying array of fight moves but ultimately loses the trinket.
“Who are you?” gasps Katy.
Reluctantly, Shaun confesses he is Shang-Chi, son of Xu Wenwu (Tony Leung), an immortal who can harness the devastating power of 10 ancient golden bracelets.
Fearful that his estranged younger sister (Meng’er Zhang) is now a target, Shang-Chi races to Macau with Katy in tow.
Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings is a rollicking romp laced with plentiful father-son angst and noble sacrifices in the heat of battle.
Special effects overload threatens a bombastic final act but solid performances largely cut through a digital blitzkrieg that conjures memories of Awkwafina’s animation, Raya And The Last Dragon.
Predictably, end credits conceal two teases.
The first explicitly grounds the title character in the wider Marvel mythology replete with fan-pleasing cameos while a second vignette is a tokenistic redress of gender inequality.
The Ten Rings Will Return promises an end title card. Happy days.
HERE TODAY (12A)
Based on former Saturday Night Live writer Alan Zweibel’s short story The Prize, which makes hay from an anecdote about a silent auction, Here Today bids repeatedly to address the issue of dementia through comedy and a May to December romance between director Billy Crystal and co-star Tiffany Haddish.
The leads catalyse winning screen chemistry when they trade one-liners and Crystal and Zweibel’s script sings when it gently pokes fun at the serious business of making people laugh behind the scenes at an SNL-style sketch show.
Once the tone shifts to reflect on the inexorable, agonising deterioration of a brilliant mind, there’s a clear disconnect between writing and performances and you can see wheels turning in actors’ minds as they wring out tears on cue.
Haddish’s character is disappointingly light on back story.
It’s the bitterest irony that Crystal’s film slips so effortlessly from the memory.
RISE OF THE FOOTSOLDIER: ORIGINS (18)
In the opening 60 seconds of director Nick Nevern’s tale of violence and retribution, bile-spewing Essex hard men toss out three c-bombs and twice as many f-grenades before a punch to the face momentarily silences the verbal onslaught.
Profanities are as common as commas and full stops in Rise Of The Footsoldier: Origins.
Based on true events, the fifth film in the blood-spattered series is another prequel to the 2007 dramatisation of the Rettendon murders, which joined a long list of homegrown gangster thrillers that jumped on and fell off the Lock, Stock bandwagon.
Nevern’s knuckle-bruised picture welcomes back Terry Stone, Roland Manookian and Craig Fairbrass as the victims of the 1995 shooting, Tony Tucker, Craig Rolfe and Pat Tate.
Dodgy haircuts and a 1980s-scented soundtrack of Black Box, Laura Branigan, New Order, Sam Fox, Taylor Dane, The Thompson Twins and Ultravox turn back the clock more convincingly than the lead cast.