Forget Cristiano Ronaldo, the sharpest new signing of the week is Simu Liu, who brings flair, grace and a touch of steel to an ageing Avengers line-up. The former stuntman doesn’t put a flying foot wrong in his hugely entertaining first solo movie.
When we meet Liu’s Shang-Chi, he’s going under the alias of Shaun and working as a hotel valet driver in San Francisco with his best mate Katy (Awkwafina). Just as we’re settling into a gentle slacker comedy, the pair take a very eventful bus journey.
A gang of thugs, which includes a hulking chap with a bionic arm, try to steal a clearly mystical pendant hanging on Shaun’s neck. The valet driver replies with a blistering volley of martial arts moves.
After a wonderfully choreographed fight scene has morphed into a thrilling Speed-style tear-up through the streets of San Francisco, Shaun reveals his true identity to his bewildered best pal.
Turns out he’s the son of centuries-old supervillain Wenwu (Tony Leung) whose superpowers come from 10 snazzy bracelets. Worried that his estranged sister (Meng’er Zhang) will be targeted next, Shang-Chi races to Macau with Katy in tow.
A brilliant opening half-hour ends with a Jackie Chan influenced sequence scene on a skyscraper covered in bamboo scaffolding.
As this is an Avengers movie, we suspect we’re heading towards a finale involving CGI monsters and some sort of inter-dimensional portal.
But while the destination is crushingly familiar, the journey is exhilirating. Director Destin Daniel Cretton barely puts a foot wrong, blending blistering action with epic family drama and well-honed physical comedy.
Awkwafina’s Katy’s may not be a superhero but as non-annoying, even likeable, comedy sidekick she could be a vital cog in the Marvel machine.