Catsuit-clad assassin is back in her own whip-smart movie: KATE MUIR reviews ...

Catsuit-clad assassin is back in her own whip-smart movie: KATE MUIR reviews ...
Catsuit-clad assassin is back in her own whip-smart movie: KATE MUIR reviews ...

Black Widow (12A)

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Verdict: Ace assassins assemble

Another Round (12A)

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Verdict: A drama uncorks emotions

Scarlett Johansson's ass-kicking Avenger gets a stand-alone movie at last in Black Widow. 

No longer just a sidekick to Iron Man or Captain America, Johansson gives a cracking performance as Natasha Romanoff, a whip-smart, Russian-trained killing machine.

Now she's on the side of the American Avengers, and begins a mission to destroy the Russians' Red Room programme, which trains and brainwashes young girls, including herself, to become Black Widow killers and spies.

Natasha is joined — and almost immediately upstaged — by her little sister Yelena, played by British actress Florence Pugh with oomph, wit and often hilarious, childlike enthusiasm.

Scarlett Johansson’s ass-kicking Avenger gets a stand-alone movie at last in Black Widow.

Scarlett Johansson's ass-kicking Avenger gets a stand-alone movie at last in Black Widow.

Yelena was also trained in the Black Widow programme, and the two catsuit-clad female assassins rival the best of the supermen in Marvel Cinematic Universe with the balletic brutality of their fight sequences.

Their enemy is hardman Ray Winstone playing Russian supervillain Dreykov, the genius behind the Black Widow assassin programme. He hams it up as he tries to make his East End accent sound more Eastern Bloc.

Compared to the clunking, overblown efforts in some previous Avengers films, Black Widow has shape, coherence and emotional heft, thanks to Australian director Cate Shortland. Every character has depth, which lifts this above its cartoonish origins.

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The story goes back to Natasha and Yelena's childhood in suburban Ohio in 1995, a happy family shot in nostalgic Kodachrome. Rachel Weisz is the mother Melina, but their father Alexei turns out to be super-soldier Red Guardian (David Harbour). The family is not what it seems. Dysfunctional doesn't cover it.

The film cuts to 21 years later, when Natasha's Black Widow is a grown woman, one of the few Avengers who relies on intelligence and athleticism, rather than superpowers. 

Yelena takes the mickey: 'I don't think the god-from-space had to take an Ibuprofen after a fight,' she laughs.

Compared to the clunking, overblown efforts in some previous Avengers films, Black Widow has shape, coherence and emotional heft, thanks to Australian director Cate Shortland. Every character has depth, which lifts this above its cartoonish origins

Compared to the clunking, overblown efforts in some previous Avengers films, Black Widow has shape, coherence and emotional heft, thanks to Australian director Cate Shortland. Every character has depth, which lifts this above its cartoonish origins

The action matches the wit, with spectacular daredevil stunts on clapped-out helicopters, and traditional motorbike-to-car chases which end untraditionally. The finale has all guns and space-stations blazing. Johansson's combination of vulnerability and power gives her a magnetic screen presence, and Black Widow, cancelled twice because of Covid, has been worth the wait.

In Another Round, Mads Mikkelsen has the face of an ancient Norse god, emotions crossing it like dangerous storms.

Who better to play a teacher who stays slightly sloshed, every day, in search of a better life? In a delightfully

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