Andrew Garfield swings into action against new adversaries in the web-slinging sequel The Amazing Spider-Man 2
THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 (12A)
Two is company but three super-villains are a crowd in Marc Webb’s action-packed sequel to his 2012 blockbuster, which successfully rebooted the Marvel Comics franchise.
A Russian mobster in rhinoceros-shaped armour, a maligned Oscorp employee who can shoot electricity from his fingertips and an iconic green-skinned imp with daddy issues all vie for our attention during a rough ‘n’ tumble 142 minutes.
The film’s special effects wizards oblige with dazzling sequences of Spider-Man swinging at breathless speed through the skyscrapers of New York.
Such is the dizzying velocity of these set pieces, director Webb repeatedly employs slow-motion to make sense of the blurs of blue and red spandex.
For all the sequel’s technical prowess, which is considerable, it’s the screen chemistry of Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, who met on the first picture and have been dating ever since, which provides more bang than the digitally-rendered pyrotechnics.
When the two actors stare into each other’s eyes, we can feel the electricity crackle between them.
“You’re Spider-Man, and I love that, but I love Peter Parker more,” she professes.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 opens with a protracted flashback to the night Richard Parker (Campbell Scott) and his wife Mary (Embeth Davidtz) leave their young son in the care of Aunt May (Sally Field) and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen).
The reason for this sudden disappearance continues to haunt Peter (Garfield).
So too does the ghost of Captain Stacy (Denis Leary), whose daughter Gwen (Stone) is Peter’s on-off-on-off girlfriend.
While Peter hones his powers, childhood friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) returns to the Big Apple to assume control of Oscorp in the wake of the death of his bullying father, Norman (Chris Cooper).
Harry’s ascension coincides with an industrial accident that transforms nerdy employee and Spider-Man fanatic Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) into an electrically-charged monster.
Thus Peter must potentially give up his life to protect Gwen and Aunt May from harm.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 fleshes out the back story of the Parkers and their involvement in secret experiments.
Peter and Gwen’s turbulent romance is the cornerstone and the film soars – rather like the titular hero – whenever they are together.
Foxx’s portrayal of the pathetic bad guy with unimaginable power coursing through his veins is more miss than hit.
The script doesn’t spend enough time with his corporate nerd before the metamorphosis into Electro.
Consequently, gear changes between action, romance and comedy are not as smooth as they could be.
Thankfully, DeHaan is terrifically tormented as the heir to the Oscorp empire, who clings forlornly to the hope of a transfusion of Spider-Man’s blood to cure his genetic woes.
The sins of two fathers weigh heavily on their sons, laying the foundations for a battle royale between the wily web-slinger and an iconic adversary in a third instalment, earmarked for release in summer 2016.
THE LOVE PUNCH (12A)
Opening with a barman preparing a martini – shaken not stirred – The Love Punch is a ham-fisted caper that nods affectionately to leading man Pierce Brosnan’s years of service as James Bond.
Indeed, the film’s centre-piece jewel theft would have been effortlessly executed by 007 in mere minutes.
However, writer-director Joel Hopkins’s third feature isn’t concerned with the finer points of pilfering a £10m diamond from a heavily guarded mansion on the Cote d’Azur.
His script is intentionally divorced from reality.
Somehow, the first-time criminals manage to throw grappling hooks up hundreds of feet in order to scale a mountainside in ill-fitting wet suits, then smuggle the gem in a hiding place that would result in horrific injuries for one of the team.
When the couple need sensitive information, they video conference their teenage son (Jack Wilkinson) and call upon his dubious talents as a hacker.
The Love Punch is not great art and the outcome is achingly predictable, but the on-screen chemistry of Brosnan and Emma Thompson fizzes and there are some hearty laughs amid the nonsense.
Richard Jones (Brosnan) and his ex-wife Kate (Thompson) are crippled by loneliness as they lead unfulfilling separate lives.
He is poised to retire to the golf course with best friend Jerry (Timothy Spall) while she reluctantly agrees to blind dates organised by Jerry’s well-meaning wife, Penelope (Celia Imrie).
“Taking your laptop into the garden is not ‘getting out there’,” Penelope reminds Kate.
Shortly after the couple’s daughter Sophie (Tuppence Middleton) flies the nest for university, Machiavellian French businessman Vincent Kruger (Laurent Lafitte) plunders the pension fund of Richard’s company, leaving the Joneses on the brink of financial ruin.
A trip to Paris to confront Kruger ends badly so Kate suggests they steal the hulking diamond necklace which Kruger’s unsuspecting fiancee (Louise Bourgoin) is set to wear on their wedding day.
“What have we got to lose?” wonders Richard aloud.
“Our dignity? Our freedom?” replies his former spouse.
Blessed with a wonderful running joke about Jerry’s unlikely secret military past, The Love Punch won’t be troubling awards committees.
It’s simplistic, lightweight fluff, which uses the robbery as a plot device to reunite Richard and Kate then stoke the embers that clearly still smoulder between them.
Thompson and Brosnan are an attractive pairing and they bring a veneer of class to proceedings, which is otherwise lacking in the writing and direction.
Both actors appear to be having a blast in the film’s sun-baked Riviera locations, and Spall and Imrie add depth to colourful supporting characters, who view their collusion in the theft as a catalyst to re-invigorate their marriage.
A candlelit meal for two closer to home would surely be a simpler and cheaper option.