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Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (PG)

Starring Simu Liu, Awkwafina, Michelle Yeoh, Tony Leung

Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton

 The first Marvel Cinematic Universe instalment to feature an Asian lead has arrived and it reaffirms what we already know: Simu Liu may be the star, but it’s Tony Leung who’s the MVP, as his crime boss father who rules a centuries-old empire with the titular super-powered bangles. And that’s a good thing. Because when someone of Leung’s calibre gives a performance (his silence speaks volumes), he elevates genre material above its natural level, especially when your hero is obscure. Shang-Chi is a creation of writer Steve Englehart and artist Jim Starlin which debuted in 1973, inspired by the kung-fu craze sparked by Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon, and as played by Liu, while affable, has a lightweight presence. No wonder Shang-Chi’s always brooding over his old man’s legacy: he can’t escape his shadow. Daddy issues (a recurring MCU theme) aside, the movie is enlivened by a fab predominantly Asian cast (Awkwafina is ace as Shang-Chi’s wing-woman), spirited fight choreography (it has the year’s second-best brawl-in-a-bus sequence), and geek-baiting Easter eggs (hey, isn’t that guy from Iron Man 3?), Sadly, the finale — which takes place in a Zhang Yimou-meets-Tsui Hark hidden forestry village straight out of a wuxia flick — goes into auto-pilot mode with some out-of-control kaiju-on-kaiju mayhem. As origin stories go, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is fun and furious, with the right amount of heft mixed in. Let’s see how Shang-Chi will fare when he plays with the others in the MCU sandbox (stick around for the two end-credit stingers) — and if he can truly step up to the plate as his own man. (3.5/5 stars)

Photo: Disney


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