Whilst seamlessly posing as a 1990s American family, David Harbour and Rachel Weiss are parents to Scarlett Johansson‘s Natasha and Florence Pugh’s Yelena. However, when their cover is blown, they flee to Cuba where the girls are split up to be trained as assassins in Russia’s ominous “Red Room”, as controlled by Ray Winstone‘s General Dreykov.
Years later and with several opening chapters of the Avengers storyline having elapsed, Natasha is now a wanted fugitive. However, Yelena knows where she can be found and she has a compelling purpose for doing so. In previously tracking down a rogue Black Widow from the Red Room, Yelena has discovered out that Dreykov is controlling their minds with a chemical agent to which she has the antidote.
So, can the sisters free the minds of their fellow assassins without getting killed themselves?
… Black Widow is a film that gives you everything you expect and nothing that you don’t
When Scarlett Johansson‘s Natasha Romanoff disappeared at the end of The Avengers movies, a big-budget movie exploring the origins of this fan favourite has long been on the cards – and now it is here in Black Widow. Boasting a decent cast and the usual high-octane set piece that you would expect from a Marvel movie, Black Widow is no poor cousin to what’s gone before – but then again nor is it particularly fresh.
Looking back at Scarlett Johansson‘s character in the previous Marvel movies, hers was always the matter-of-fact voice that kept things grounded with a tactile display of martial arts skills over superpowers. Yet in folded into a story of a disparate family of assassins who must re-unite for a greater good, that critical, drop-dead voice is gone. Instead, Marvel newcomer Florence Pugh as Yelena takes that role – and in doing so – she runs away with it. In fact, if we cut to the chase here there is a very real danger that both her indifferent yet hurt sister and David Harbour’s comically boorish wannabe father steal the show. Drunk on his supposed fame as Russia’s equivalent to Captain America, David Harbour is the movie’s vitally necessary comic relief and Florence Pugh outshines Scarlett Johansson in the accent and attitude stakes – and that’s maybe the plan. Looking at trade interviews there seems to have been a definite intention for that to be the case but in doing so, it’s in detriment to Scarlett Johansson‘s character and performance. Shawn of any real life or death sacrifices to consider, Black Widow is a movie that slowly crawls up into a James Bond-like ball in its third act.
With Ray Winstone doing a more than decent job at a Russian general who was outgrown his rank, you can’t help feeling his character has been heavily borrowed somewhere from between the pages of the Red Sparrow script or one of Ian Fleming’s novels. Rachel Weisz works well with the outline of Melina that’s she’s given to fill in and the film works at its best when their dysfunctional family of convenience squabbles like a real one. However, when the film really starts to lens hard on the receding figure of Scarlett Johansson‘s posterior or folks walking against explosions that the formula starts to break down into its clear constituent ingredients.
Black Widow gives you everything you expect and nothing else – and if you want something that ticks those boxes then it will explode on cue. However, if you’re looking for a swansong that delves a bit deeper into Black Widow’s rationale and back story or betrayal and abuse – then this isn’t it. That would be Red Sparrow with Jennifer Lawrence.