Black Widow (M) - 134 minutes
Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow’s familial bonds are the subject of the film that bears her name.
It is 1995 in Ohio and a mother, Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz), has a strong bond with her two young children, both girls, Natasha (Ever Anderson) and Yelena (Violet McGraw).
Their father, Alexei Shostakov (David Harbour) arrives home and suddenly they’re all on the run, no time to finish dinner or even to grab treasured possessions.
Mind you, there is more behind the truth of this “family” than at first meets the eye.
They make their way to a well-hidden small plane, but are subject to heavy artillery fire, barely managing to escape.
It is all very scary and confusing for the children … and once they land in Cuba, the family is separated.
Soon thereafter we cut to Black Widow 21 years later.
Being tailed, she slips away, only to have a very rough and tumble encounter with her younger sister.
Before long they are confronting their “parents” again in vastly different circumstances.
A Russian madman, Dreykov (Ray Winstone), is controlling the thoughts of an elite fighting force as world domination looms.
The question is which family member is on which side of the fence and what, if anything, will they do to stop the power-hungry tyrant … or will they join him on his quest.
I enjoyed the tense start, which saw the two children torn from their parents, setting up the lion’s share of the action.
Thereafter, I felt the film laboured and was too convoluted.
I didn’t think writer Eric Pearson (Godzilla vs. Kong) nailed it, while the direction of Australian Cate Shortland (Berlin Syndrome) needed tightening.
A thorough understanding of the Marvel Cinematic Universe would most certainly help gain a greater appreciation of what is on offer.
Humour is intermingled with kick butt heroics. One of the most amusing episodes is Yelena mocking Black Widow over a hair habit.
Scarlett Johansson is thoroughly at ease in an expanded role she has filled for over a decade.
Plaudits to Florence Pugh, who impresses as her far from shabby sister, who doesn’t let Black Widow have it all her own way. Pugh matches Johansson stride for stride.
Rachel Weisz is solid, too, as a mother hiding a big secret, while David Harbour spends much of his time filling the role of the buffoon, thereby lightening the load.
Ray Winstone is spot on for the role of uncompromising head kicker.
I dare say Black Widow will have far more appeal to fan favourites – who, I dare say, it is aimed at – than to the casual cinema goer.
Rated M, it scores a 6 out of 10.