Shang-Chi gives us well-rounded characters who go beyond the sum of their superhero parts

SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS

(12A) 132mins

★★★★☆

THE Marvel Cinematic Universe finally gives us its first Asian superhero in the form of martial-arts maestro Shang-Chi.

Shaun (Simu Liu) and best friend of ten years Katy (Awkwafina from Crazy Rich Asians) are living their best life in San Francisco, working as parking valets by day, and hitting karaoke bars by night.

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The Marvel Cinematic Universe finally gives us its first Asian superhero in the form of martial-arts maestro Shang-ChiCredit: Alamy

So far, so millennial. Until a machete-wielding gang attack Shaun on a bus journey.

As he effortlessly wipes them out, with Katy driving the runaway wheels, Sandra Bullock in Speed-style, clearly there’s more to this bomber-jacket-wearing loafer than meets the eye.

He reveals to Katy he is the son of Wenwu (Tony Leung), a power-mad warrior and possessor of the legendary Ten Rings, who trained his kids to kill from childhood.

When his mother died, Shang-Chi ran away to America and became “Shaun”.

But now it’s time to go home.

The two friends travel to Macau, China, Katy providing laughs as they locate fierce cage-fighter sister Xialing (Meng’er Zhang) and are reunited with Wenwu, who is determined to return to the mystical village of Ta-Lo, their deceased mother’s home.

Following the formula of MCU movies, of course there are non-stop, highly satisfying face-offs and epic action showdowns as they make their way there.

One vertigo-inducing skyscraper conflict scene is gasp-worthy, and there are beautiful Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon-style sequences.

But there’s more to this Marvel adventure than just combat.

The script gives us well-rounded characters who go beyond the sum of their superhero parts.

Funny, flawed and facing relatable family dynamics, this elevates everything to the next level.

One vertigo-inducing skyscraper conflict scene is gasp-worthy, and there are beautiful Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon-style sequences

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One vertigo-inducing skyscraper conflict scene is gasp-worthy, and there are beautiful Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon-style sequencesCredit: Alamy
Following the formula of MCU movies, of course there are non-stop, highly satisfying face-offs and epic action showdowns as they make their way there

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Following the formula of MCU movies, of course there are non-stop, highly satisfying face-offs and epic action showdowns as they make their way thereCredit: Alamy

It’s not perfect.

Surprisingly the more basic visual effects are lacklustre — notably the actual Ten Rings, allegedly the source of so much global strife, but which look decidedly “Claire’s accessories”.

Ben Kingsley’s comedy cameo perks up a midway treading-water section a little, but not enough.

Having worked so hard to deliver character development alongside the kick-ass Kung-Fu, the closing CGI mega battle is disappointing.

Still, for the most part, it’s great fun.

Anyone who thinks superhero movies aren’t for them should give Shang-Chi a whirl.

It could well be the jaunt to change your mind.

And, as always with the MCU, stay seated for the closing credits.

ANNETTE

(15) 141mins

★★★★☆

WHERE to start with this bonkers film? Judging by the bizarre opening sequence, French director Leos Carax wasn’t too sure either.

But it begins with its writers Ron and Russell Mael, aka veteran pop duo Sparks – subject of hilarious new doc The Sparks Brothers – belting out the song So May We Begin.

Annette begins with its writers Ron and Russell Mael belting out the song So May We Begin

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Annette begins with its writers Ron and Russell Mael belting out the song So May We BeginCredit: Alamy

They stomp around Los Angeles with the film’s stars, Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard, and cast in one unbroken sequence.

It’s wonderfully weird and joyous.

But the film demands we buckle up.

This sung-through musical – no spoken words – and celebrity satire takes no prisoners.

Shock comic Henry McHenry (Driver) meets earnest opera singer Ann (Cotillard).

They fall in love and tell us so with the chorus-only song We Love Each Other So Much.

Their whirlwind romance of late-night motorbike rides and love-making is documented by “Showbizz News” bulletins, and while Annette brings up #MeToo and cancel culture, they are left dangling and feel contrived.

So who is Annette?

Henry and Ann’s baby, depicted as a puppet.

With the intensity of their relationship and Henry’s monstrous self-destruction, it begs the question why this film is called Annette at all.

RISE OF THE FOOTSOLDIER: ORIGINS

(15) 107mins

★★★☆☆

BY the time a movie franchise reaches its fifth outing, there are unlikely to be any major shocks and surprises . . . and this is no exception.

Sticking to the tried and tested template, mobsters Tony Tucker (Terry Stone), Craig Rolfe (Roland Manookian) and Pat Tate (Craig Fairbrass) thump, threaten and menace rivals in late-Eighties Essex, in what is a predictable slice of gangland japes.

Rise of the Footsoldier: Origins sticks to the tried and tested template - pictured Craig Fairbrass and Vinnie Jones

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Rise of the Footsoldier: Origins sticks to the tried and tested template – pictured Craig Fairbrass and Vinnie Jones

Subtitled The Tony Tucker Story, it features Vinnie Jones in his first major role since the loss of his wife Tanya forced him to take a break from acting.

And despite the hiatus, the former footballer hasn’t lost his gift for a snarling, clenched-fist stare that delivers exactly what it says on the tin every time.

There are points where this franchise veers towards comedy and others where it feels more like an authentic crime biopic.

Director Nick Nevern would surely do better to settle on one of these two styles and commit to it totally.

But fans of the previous movies will not be disappointed by moments of truly gruesome violence, as thugs are bludgeoned with almost every imaginable item.

Park your disbelief and enjoy this for what it is.
SIMON BOYLE

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