At The Movies: Where The Crawdads Sing, Wolf Pack

Daisy Edgar-Jones plays a murder suspect in Where The Crawdads Sing. PHOTO: SONY PICTURES

Where The Crawdads Sing (NC16)

125 minutes, opens on Thursday

2 stars

The story: An abandoned orphan girl who raises herself to adulthood in the marshlands of 1960s North Carolina becomes the prime suspect in the death of her no-good lover.

British actress Daisy Edgar-Jones plays Kya Clark the “Marsh Girl” as a lissome doe-eyed nymph in flowing floral frocks, her skin so dewy, her wetlands home must surely be a mud bath resort.

Where The Crawdads Sing is the shallow prettification of the same-titled 2018 novel by Delia Owens that has sold more than 12 million copies.

Edgar-Jones’ miscasting as the most improbable savage child ever is not her fault, of course, and the promising star of the 2020 BBC series Normal People does at least make Kya an intelligent and resourceful survivor.

Luring the shy reclusive teen out of her Edenic self-sufficiency into the community’s judgmental glare are two local suitors of near-identical mono-dimensional handsome blue-eyed hunkiness.

One is her smiley childhood sweetheart (Taylor John Smith), who teaches her to read and write and encourages her love of the natural world. The other (Harris Dickinson) is a rich cad, and it is his body that washes up in the bog.

Kya is swiftly arrested for murder when her only crime is to be an outsider.

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Olivia Newman directs this soap-operatic whodunnit romance thriller. The courtroom trial led by David Strathairn as the kindly defence attorney frames the flashbacks to Kya’s life, experiencing crippling poverty, domestic violence, small-town prejudice and the scourge of class and race, but there is here no misery that cannot be soothed by sun-dappled schmaltz.

Hot take: Whatever the crawdads are singing, it is not praises for this melodrama.

Wolf Pack (NC16)

Wolf Pack stars Max Zhang (fourth from left) and Aarif Rahman (third from right). PHOTO: SHAW ORGANISATION

105 minutes, opens on Thursday

3 stars

The story: A team of Chinese elite mercenaries is dispatched to a mountainous Central Asia region to foil a terrorist attack on a natural gas pipeline.

Aarif Rahman plays a young medic tricked into joining the seven-member unit’s cross-border counter-strike operation. Max Zhang is the leader with a mysterious connection to Rahman’s character’s past. Also featured are gun battles, aerial assaults, daring hostage rescues and cutting-edge armaments.

The 100 million yuan (S$20.1 million) Wolf Pack, made in consultation with a Chinese Special Forces veteran, is an expertly mounted military adventure anchored by the duo’s charismatic star presence.

The plotting of the terrorist sabotage is as elaborate as the stunts.

There is a bomb, although the only point of concern, really, is that the pipeline is an overseas project under China’s Belt and Road Initiative, and that the brothers-in-arms with the fearsome names like Monster (Jiang Luxia) and Fireball (Mark Luu) will be unwavering in defending the motherland’s interests from hostile foreign forces.

Enemies of the state, you picked the wrong global superpower to mess with.

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“Wolf warrior diplomacy” is Beijing’s newly assertive international policy, the tag inspired by the pair of Wolf Warrior (2015) and Wolf Warrior II (2017) box-office juggernauts which had Wu Jing as a Chinese super-soldier roaming the world.

This foray is a quasi-threequel in the shamelessly nationalistic franchise produced by Lv Jianmin even if it is entertainment too savvy for sloganeering. Action speaks louder than words, and the movie lets its pumped combat thrills and heroic derring-dos say everything about China’s supremacy.

Hot take: An ambitious action adventure that is proudly made in China.

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