Friday, April 4, 2014

"Winter Soldier" review: Captain America learns some cold facts about modern life

The sky is falling!
In "Captain America: The First Avenger," Steve Rogers had an easy time spotting the bad guys - they wore swastikas on their sleeves.

In "The Avengers," they were even easier to identify - they were space aliens, falling out of the sky.

But in "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," Rogers learns that his world is red, white, blue and gray - lots and lots of gray.

Christopher Evans is back as Cap, the thawed-out World War II hero still trying to find his place in the 21st century. As the story unfolds, he is more conflicted than ever. Some of his closest friends are not what they seem. This includes his co-workers at S.H.I.E.L.D., Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). Even the girl next door - literally - has secrets.

Captain America does his best to keep it simple. When Sam Wilson (recognize the name, comic book fans?) asks, "How do we tell the good guys from the bad guys?" he replies, "If they're shooting at you, they're bad guys."

Amid all the-enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend-unless-he's-my-enemy's-friend confusion, "Winter Soldier" delivers in all the ways you would expect. The action sequences are outstanding, particularly the one-on-one (or one-on-a-dozen) fight scenes. And very large objects are blown up in very big ways (perhaps to the point of overkill, but that's what we've come to expect from Hollywood).

The plot is a trifle convoluted - Hydra has raised its ugly heads again - and in the context of the Marvel Universe, perhaps a little hard to believe for devoted fans. Sorry, no details/spoilers. Nope, not even a hint to the identity of the title character, a feared assassin, either.

True to the formula of the Avengers-related movies, "Winter Soldier" provides a good dose of humor, too. When Black Widow asks Steve Rogers if he had a fun Saturday night, he replies, "Well; all the guys in my barbershop quarter are dead. So no, not really." There's the obligatory Stan Lee scene. And stay through the credits for two extra scenes. Please note that I said "two."

"Winter Soldier" takes aim at a winning formula and hits the target.

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