Captian America: The Winter Soldier

Captain America, Thor, Spiderman, Superman and Ironman. What’s next, Sen. Ted Cruz starring as a human Moby Dick?

Captain America The Winter SoldierYou don’t have to be smug or self-righteous to dismiss the Marvel comic book films, but it helps. Superheroes are continually threatened but conquer in the end as expected, only to lead to another sequel. Who needs it?

Well, we do. Nearly all of them are fun and wildly inventive, and you simply can’t be concerned about your IQ dropping if you dare buy a ticket.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a perfect example of a madcap day at the movie theater. The hero is all mom, pop  and apple pie, and his most loyal comrade is Scarlett Johansson in tight leather. Combining patriotism and sex, who could possibly be offended?

The plot centers on S.H.I.E.L.D., a high-level secret national organization designed to protect world security. The problem is that it has been co-opted by HYDRA, a cross between old Communists and even older Nazis surviving World War II.

And while we have some truly great heroes, the movie works because it has an even greater villain in Robert Redford. Redford, playing Alexander Pierce, is a member of S.H.I.E.L.D. who finds world peace to be worth the killing of a few million expendable human beings. Redford is at his best playing Redford, and he remains as startlingly charming as a modern-day bad guy as he did playing the hero decades ago in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) and The Sting (1973).

Helping him along are some very effective performances from a number of actors. To begin with, Chris Evans is actually pretty good as Captain America, a guy who has survived being kept on ice since World War II. Evans’ strength is that he doesn’t overact, and he merges in to a combination of Spiderman and Batman.

Anthony Mackie and Ms. Johansson serve to help turn this movie from an average film into a highly entertaining one. As most of you know, Mr. Mackie plays the Falcon, a military veteran who is able to don fake wings and glide anywhere through the air. Ms. Johansson again appears as the Black Widow, a woman who could kick the crap out of any man who dares get near her. Her assailants may end up passing out, but they’ll never forget those lips.

I should also note the performance of Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, a central agent who becomes the target of Mr. Redford. As he has proven in multiple films over the years ranging from Jurassic Park (1993); Pulp Fiction (1994); Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004); the devilishly entertaining Snakes on a Plane (2006) as well as the Iron Man and Thor films, he is a sensational actor who loves to attract attention.

Finally, it would be foolish to dismiss the performance of Sebastian Stan, here playing the villainous Winter Soldier. Though I don’t dare give it away, he has a connection to Captain America from World War II, and that relationship lies at the heart of this engaging film.

Look, it is no secret that the movie drifts into one gigantic, ongoing battle. Nonetheless, it’s surprisingly easy to get caught up in the tension as our heroes dance with death. As a result, while you know that many people are going to die, how can the good guys appear in this year’s new Avengers movie if they bite the dust?

As you see them repeatedly threatened, it reminds me of a scene out of the spectacular made-for-TV movie Evil Roy Slade (1972). As Evil and his gang rob a country bank, they hear a horse ride up from outside. As one of Evil’s men spots the rider while peaking through a shade, Evil shouts out, “Kill him.”

In response, you hear the retort, “But Evil, it’s a woman.” To which Evil quickly yells, “Wound her.”;

It could have been any of our Super Heroes on that horse.