DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER (director: Anthony and Joe Russo; screenwriters: Christopher Markus/ Stephen McFeely/based on the comic book series; cinematographer: Trent Opaloch; editors:  Jeffrey Ford/Matthew Schmidt; music:  Henry Jackman; cast: Chris Evans (Steve Rogers/Captain America), Scarlett Johansson (Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow), Sebastian Stan (Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier), Anthony Mackie (Sam Wilson/Falcon), Cobie Smulders (Agent Maria Hill), Frank Grillo (Brock Rumlow), Hayley Atwell (Peggy Carter), Toby Jones (Dr. Arnim Zola), Georges St-Pierre (Batroc), Robert Redford (Alexander Pierce), Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury); Runtime: 136; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: Kevin Feige; Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Pictures; 2014)

"Comic book superheroes never seem to go out of fashion, even the spandex-clad, mild-mannered, good character, patriot, old-fashioned kind like Captain America."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Comic book superheroes never seem to go out of fashion, even the spandex-clad, mild-mannered, good character, patriot, old-fashioned kind like Captain America--someone decent who is tough enough and committed to go after the bad guys, someone trustworthy that America needs in this cynical and corrupting age we live in. The Captain America character was created by Marvel back in 1941. This popcorn summer blockbuster action-pic should give the adult kiddies in the theater the requisite comic book thrills and its convoluted story, based on the Marvel Comic Book series, is sharply written but over-plotted by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. It offers enough attention to hot-button issues like drone warfare and Big Brother satellite spy surveillance systems, that will make it relevant for today's viewer. It also smartly blends in a 1970s paranoid thriller story 'to trust no one' (referring back to the Nixon era, in the 1970s, when Watergate and paranoia thrillers were in vogue). It gives us an acceptable grown-up story to go with the usual comic book talk, pyrotechnics, car chases, gratuitous violence and over-the-top fight scenes in such action pics.

The brothers Anthony and Joe Russo ("Welcome to Collinwood"/"You, Me and Dupree"/but are best known for TV sitcoms like Arrested Development & Community) do a fine job directing this franchise sequel that began with the OK version by Joe Johnston's Captain America: The First Avenger (2011). This version has the bland nice-guy Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), the clean-cut skinny kid from Brooklyn, who volunteered in the original pic to fight the Nazis and then gets bulked up. Steve for 70 years, ever since 1945, is put on ice at the end of WWII until defrosted to become part of a special project run out of Washington, D. C. The confused principled lad tries to come to terms with all he missed during his snooze, and during a jog around the Capitol sights, such as the Washington Monument, is befriended by Army paratrooper Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), a.k.a. the Falcon, who suggests Steve needs to listen to the Marvin Gaye soundtrack from Trouble Man to do some serious catching up musically. Steve's cutesy to-do list in catch-up includes Thai food and learning about Steve Jobs. Meanwhile the gritty former KGB agent known as the Black Widow for her martial arts skills, Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), plays with the outdated squareness of Captain America and after sneaking in a kiss tells him he needs to do some catching up in his kissing skills. Natasha, who works for S.H.I.E.L.D., takes Captain America to the Indian Ocean on a mission to rescue the S.H.I.E.L.D. hostages from a ship taken by pirates.

Things get going for keeps when an attempt is made on the life of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s ruthless eye-patched head Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), who is in Steve's apartment and before the assassination has warned him 'to trust no one.' The mysterious metal-armed assassin is called the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) and seems unstoppable. He brings back memories from the past, for Steve. When Captain America follows Nick's advice and tells no one what he was told by his critically injured boss, he is forced to go on the run from S.H.I.E.L.D  as a contract is put out on him by the conniving, jaded World Security Council leader of the spy organization, Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford), who is involved with a Nazi-like group called Hydra within his organization and thick conspiracies that have taken away basic freedoms from Americans under the guise of protecting the public, and a new top-secret launch called Project Insight (which uses drone-like helicarriers for both spying and pre-emptive attacks). Pierce orders the execution of Captain America so as not to compromise the amoral project, whose motto could be 'might is right.' Aided by Natasha and his jogger friend Sam, the good guys attract some more good guys and attempt to stop all the bad guys who have infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D., and by the end you have massive carnage and a trillion dollar spy system destroyed. During the conflict you are only able to tell the good guys from the bad by who is shooting at the obvious good guys.

It's still an action-pic lightweight comic book film, but it sometimes tries to do more, is well-executed, entertaining and not bad when compared with other such ventures into the genre. I particularly enjoyed Redford's slimy performance, as he's the efficient-seeming and smooth talking oily politician--a takeoff on the creepy, madman, smug war-monger and standard bearer for the military-industrialist complex, Donald Rumsfeld.

The overlong film would have benefited greatly by editing its many redundant and unimportant scenes, which merely load up on cartoon violence. I saw it in 3-D, which was over-used, and enjoyed about half of the flick. The long-take climax did nothing for me, except reassure me a sequel is in the works.

REVIEWED ON 4/5/2014       GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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