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Closer in spirit to a Jason Bourne film than to a Marvel flick, Black Widow is at its best when family dynamics takes centre stage, before franchise necessities strangle the fun from the film.

The necessity of tying in the Cinematic Universe often gets in the way of a good story in many a Marvel film, but perhaps never more than in Black Widow.

The picture opens with a promising flashback scene that recalls the great TV show The Americans and follows that up with two exciting action scenes. The first introduces Scarlett Johansson's titular heroine to one of the better Marvel villains of late: Taskmaster. The second one, set in Budapest, adds Natasha Romanoff's 'little sister', played with gusto by Florence Pugh.

Up until that point Black Widow feels more like a Bourne film than a superhero flick and it's a thrilling movie because of it. Unfortunately that doesn't last past the halfway mark, when all too familiar Marvel tropes start cropping up, from hidden, evil puppet masters to sudden reversals of alliances and a climax dumbed down by generic action and numbing CGI explosions.

So despite an excellent cast and the fine direction of Cate Shortland Black Widow doesn't quite catch fire as it could have done.

release: 2021

director: Cate Shortland

starring: Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, David Harbour, Rachel Weisz


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