Austin Burke’s review published on Letterboxd:
Shang-Chi, the master of unarmed weaponry based Kung Fu, is forced to confront his past after being drawn into the Ten Rings organization.
Going into a Marvel movie is always exciting because there is usually a good bit of hype prior to the release. Shang-Chi is currently getting a ton of hype and for good reason, but there was still a level of concern going in because of how familiar it could feel. The marketing was also underwhelming. Beyond a few moments of humor that just do not work as well as intended, and a huge third act that may have been a bit too big for its own good, this movie is an absolute blast. The main reason it works so well is because of how beautifully filmed and choreographed each major moment is.
Not only is the cinematography excellent (as expected from Bill Pope), but these one-on-one fight scenes may just be the best we have seen in the MCU. This film made me take a step back and appreciate everything that Destin Daniel Cretton was trying to do, and most of it is fully accomplished here which is so impressive. Simu Liu was solid at the start, but I wasn’t fully convinced in the first act. By the end of the film, I was ready to see the next step of his journey immediately; the man is perfect for this role. The story is flashback-heavy, and that sounds worrisome, but each flashback is presented to us in a way that feels purposeful. It is essentially fleshing out this family story is a way that feels authentic and heartfelt.
In the present, we see a lot of interaction between Liu and Awkwafina. My big worry, although I love Awkwafina, was that her humor would take me out of big moments. It doesn’t always work, but it was not near as distracting as it could have been. Their relationship is great, but it is this family dynamic that brings it all home. Tony Leung is absolutely outstanding. He brings the proper level of grittiness and maturity needed in a grand film like this, but he also gives us one of the best MCU villains yet. He may not be my favorite, but he is way higher than expected because there is so much to his character that feels earned.
The real standout is everything to do with the action. The filmmaking, the choreography, the swift movements by our characters, and the way the camera takes you on a journey are all prime examples of why Shang-Chi stands out from the crowd. The third act, while a tad overwhelming, features a few incredible moments. It almost feels as if our writers attempted to fit too much into the finale, but the impact is still there. The film also does a great job of feeling like a stand-alone film, while still managing to connect to the bigger universe perfectly. Also, stay through the credits because duh. My wife and I walked out thoroughly surprised because we did not expect to have that much fun. That is always the best feeling coming out of any film.
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