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DVD REVIEW

DVD REVIEW: 'Shang-Chi' could be the one gift you need this year

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If you’re starting that Christmas gift list, you might want to put “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” on it. It’s stronger than most Marvel movies and it says the franchise is headed in the right direction.

Surprisingly, “Shang-Chi,” embraces comedy more than you’d think. Thanks to Simu Liu, the laid-back actor cast as the title character, this isn’t all business. Paired with Awkwafina (as his friend Katy), he’s able to channel a little “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” a little “Speed” and a whole lot of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” (If you saw him on “Kim’s Convenience,” you know he can deliver.)

The rings? They’re a power source for his dad (Tony Leung), who can toss them like a carnival barker and walk away with a prize every time.

Trouble emerges when dad wants son to return to the life of an assassin and help reach the woman in their life.

Shang-Chi, however, isn’t keen on killing, even though he went through training at age 7. He’s a valet in San Francisco and is just fine, thank you, taking cars for joy rides and navigating streets just made for crashes.

When another assassin (blessed with a machete-like arm) confronts him on a bus, “Shang-Chi” shifts into “Speed” gear.

It wanders into other worlds, too, and lets Michelle Yeoh show up as the voice of reason and the guide to a world that doesn’t embrace “fake” news.

Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, “Shang-Chi” manages to straddle both contemporary and classic worlds. It has its own set of rules (those rings are actually more like bracelets) and creatures that haven’t even turned up with the “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

Remove the origins material and the high-kicking martial arts and this could easily be a light comedy. Awkwafina gets to accompany her friend to the battleground and, in quick order, learns how to shoot an arrow like an Olympian. She’s pressed into service when the enemies start invading and isn’t afraid to dish out advice – to anyone.

Liu, though, is the real find. He has the charm of Chris Hemsworth, the snark of Robert Downey Jr. and the focus of Jeremy Renner.

He knows what he wants and isn’t going to let others deter him, even if they were his mentors.

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