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‘Winter Soldier’ ranks high among superhero movies

4/10/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Craig Marks

Chris Evans (Steve Rogers/Captain America) and Scarlett Johansson (Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow) star in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”
Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios
“Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” directed by brothers Anthony and Joe Russo and partially filmed in Cleveland, is a thrilling and thoughtful superhero movie. Well-acted and well-paced, it’s a sequel that adds depth to familiar characters by throwing them into a story that challenges their ideals.

Oh, and it has a whole lot of kicking.

Vicious leg kicks are just part of the arsenal of Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), better known, respectively, as Captain America and Black Widow. The two Avengers are adept at mano-a-mano combat, and their talents are put to good use in “Winter Soldier,” which has some superbly staged acrobatic fights. No one takes a breath in these battles.

Rogers is most comfortable when punches are flying and his shield is bouncing off walls and into the chest of a bad guy. It’s when the fighting stops that the problems resurface. Being 95 years old (part of it spent in a cryogenic state), he has trouble forming meaningful relationships, though he does bond with a war veteran, Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie), who can relate to feeling disconnected in civilian life. He’s also not happy with the direction of S.H.I.E.L.D, his employer. The agency, run by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), has high-tech toys that will take citizen spying to frightening new levels, sacrificing freedom for security. How the new technology will be used — and by whom — will put Fury in tough spots, and it’s great to see Jackson have a meatier role in the superhero franchise.

Rogers’ issues add up to one dour but dutiful super soldier, and Romanoff, who keeps her past closely guarded, is not a bottle of perkiness either. It’s no wonder Secretary of State Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) wants Iron Man, not Captain America or Black Widow, for a child’s birthday party gig.

But if you have a deep-rooted conspiracy that threatens the world, you could do worse than these two. “Winter Soldier” pits our heroes against a host of mad men and assassins in a story that unwinds in clever ways, keeping our interest as it goes from improbability to impossibility to pure comic book. Also, all the action gets your pulse pounding certainly helps, none of it more exciting than when Fury is pursued down streets easily recognizable as Downtown Cleveland. (Villainy still lurks in the area, alas. For the Cleveland Indians home opener, some parking decks were charging $50.)

In a funny bit in the recent “Thor” sequel, Captain America is mocked as a “gee whiz” kind of guy. He’s anything but in “Winter Soldier,” a product of living in a time when his ideas of what America should be aren’t shared by many of those in command. But he won’t bend to their ways, and while fighting for what he believes in, he’ll certainly get his kicks.

The movie, currently in theaters, is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, gunplay and action throughout.

Four Stars (out of five)

 

Craig Marks is a cartoonist and editorial, sports and entertainment writer for the West Side Leader.

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