THE latest film releases

Crazy Rich Asians

(12A, 121 mins)****

IF Richard Curtis transplanted one of his frothy romantic comedies full of beautiful, privileged people falling in love across the class divide to the Far East, the result would be strikingly similar to Crazy Rich Asians.

Based on the novel by Kevin Kwan, Jon M Chu's crowd-pleasing confection relies on well-worn genre tropes and lovingly gift-wraps every luxurious frame in the splendour of modern-day Singapore.

Chu's film invests almost two hours showcasing the south-east Asian state's breath-taking beaches, spectacular high-rise hotels, designer boutiques and mouth-watering street food.

If the island wasn't already high on your list of dream holiday destinations, it will be before the end credits roll.

Scriptwriters Peter Chiarelli and Adele Lim don't stray from tried and tested rom-com conventions and they arm the good-looking all-Asian cast with some crisp one-liners including some standout barbs from Awkwafina, who was last seen stealing scenes and jewels in Ocean's 8.

The upbeat soundtrack seamlessly melds east and west with Chinese Mandarin cover versions of familiar hits including Money (That's What I Want), Madonna's Material Girl and Coldplay's anthem Yellow.

New York University lecturer Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) has been raised in America by her single mother Kerry (Tan Kheng Hua), who worries about her daughter's sense of cultural identity.

"I'm so Chinese, I'm an economics professor who's lactose intolerant," jokingly retorts Rachel.

The tug of war between east and west intensifies when Rachel's boyfriend Nick (Henry Golding) invites her to accompany him to Singapore to attend the wedding of good friends Colin (Chris Pang) and Araminta (Sonoya Mizuno).

Rachel is blissfully unaware that Nick is the golden boy of Singapore's wealthiest dynasty headed by ferocious matriarch Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh), who expects her boy to take up the reins of the family business and marry into money.

Eleanor is deeply unimpressed with lowly academic Rachel as Nick's choice of partner and the mother makes clear her intent to remind her son of his responsibilities.

"When children are away from home too long they forget who they are," she observes coldly.

Meanwhile, Rachel supports Nick's cousin Astrid (Gemma Chan) as her marriage fractures and the new arrival prepares for the wedding with a makeover courtesy of her fashion-conscious friend Goh Peik Lin (Awkwafina) and Nick's flamboyant second cousin Oliver (Nico Santos), who playfully describes himself as "the rainbow sheep of the family".

Crazy Rich Asians is a sweet and heartfelt frolic through the battlefields of love, which delivers a full complement of uproarious laughter and tugged heartstrings.

Wu and Golding, making his feature film debut, are a delightful on-screen pairing while Yeoh keeps her fiercely protective mother the right side of caricature.

A prologue set in a rain-drenched 1995 London is hard to swallow but the rest of director Chu's silky-smooth cocktail goes down a treat.

King Of Thieves

(15, 108 mins)**

IN April 2015, Hatton Garden - London's famed jewellery quarter - became the scene of a daring and audacious robbery.

Over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend when the street was closed for business, a team of criminals descended a lift shaft to access the basement then used a heavy-duty drill to bore through walls, providing them with access to a vault of safety deposit boxes filled with priceless treasures.

The thieves ransacked dozens of boxes and escaped in a waiting van.

Newspapers speculated wildly that the stolen haul could be worth as much as £200 million.

Around six weeks after the robbery, the Metropolitan Police announced nine arrests and a gang of 60- and 70-something career criminals were unmasked as the perpetrators of the audacious heist.

King Of Thieves dramatises the robbery, offering one expletive-laden version of events masterminded by screenwriter Joe Penhall.

Considering the rich source material and an Oscar-calibre cast led by Sir Michael Caine and Jim Broadbent, director James Marsh's film is curiously devoid of suspense or engaging characters.

The only thing separating this lacklustre tale of dodgy geezers and divided loyalties from Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels' countless imitators is the advancing years of the central protagonists.

Career criminal Brian Reader (Sir Michael Caine) is devastated by the death of his wife, who made him promise that he would "stay out of mischief" when she was gone.

He commiserates in the company of friends and associates including exuberant technical wizard Basil (Charlie Cox), who hopes to persuade Brian to lead a daring heist.

Basil claims to have insider knowledge about the security system and layout of the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Ltd, which holds millions of pounds in cash and uncut diamonds in its subterranean vault.

Brian considers breaking his promise to his wife as he chats with associates Terry Perkins (Jim Broadbent), John Kenny Collins (Sir Tom Courtenay) and Danny Jones (Ray Winstone), who urge the veteran thief to listen to Basil because, "If you don't have a go, someone else will".

The men start their reconnaissance and involve another friend, Carl Wood (Paul Whitehouse), plus a fence called Billy "The Fish" Lincoln (Sir Michael Gambon), who will shift any jewellery and gems through his underground network.

King Of Thieves struggles to pickpocket our undivided attention for 108 minutes, losing dramatic momentum as tempers flare and fissures appear in the band of brothers as they divide their glittering spoils.

Caine, Broadbent and Courtenay are always watchable but the script doesn't test their acting mettle while Gambon embraces his thinly sketched character's wide-eyed lunacy to comical effect.

Marsh stages the pivotal robbery with assurance but his film arrives a week after the riveting true-life crime thriller American Animals, and wilts in comparison.


(15, 116 mins)**

IT'S not easy being a dope dealer without living like one.

So says the lead character of Director X's soulless update of the 1972 blaxploitation caper Super Fly, which starred Ron O'Neal as an enterprising criminal with "a plan to stick it to The Man" and a ghetto fabulous wardrobe to complement the hip soundtrack masterminded by Curtis Mayfield.

Canadian filmmaker Julien Christian Lutz, who trades under the moniker Director X, knows all about glamorising material wealth and objectifying women in lustrous slow motion with his achingly stylish music videos including Lucadris' Pimpin' All Over The World and Drake's Hotline Bling.

Every frame of Superfly looks expensive but while the price tags on characters' threads might be ridiculously high, the quality of Alex Tse's script is cheap and cheerless.

The modern version adheres closely to the plot of the original albeit with a few timely updates and stylistic tweaks plus a gratuitous softcore threesome in a shower, which moans and whimpers through every conceivable permutation of on-screen ardour before an impressively gymnastic final pose.

Leading man Trevor Jackson has the fast car and voluminous hair to match Ron O'Neal's earlier incarnation, swagger for self-conscious swagger, but his chancer's lack of emotion under pressure gives us no compelling reason to root for the enterprising bad boy.

Youngblood Priest (Jackson) has been working the streets of Atlanta since he was 11 years old and he deals cocaine beneath the radars of police and politicians with guidance from cautious mentor Scatter (Michael Kenneth Williams).

Flanked by right-hand man Eddie (Jason Mitchell), Youngblood exploits his network of informants - including girlfriends Georgia (Lex Scott Davis) and Synthia (Andrea Londo) - to gathering intelligence on rivals and men in power including Mayor Atkins (Big Boi).

"Everybody wants to be superfly, everybody wants to be us!" Youngblood reminds Eddie after he dodges a bullet fired by Juju (Kaalan "KR" Walker), an ambitious lieutenant of rival gang leader Q (Big Bank Black).

Youngblood resolves to orchestrate one final deal.

He betrays Scatter and takes delivery of triple the usual consignment of drugs from Mexican cartel leader Adalberto Gonzalez (Esai Morales).

Superfly struts awkwardly in the shadow of superior crime thrillers such as New Jack City, which prowled these streets of strained brotherly love with narrative clarity and richly drawn characters.

There are no such delights here, just a ponderous voiceover from Youngblood, which marks his street hustler as a preacher of meaningless mantras.

"All the power in the world can't stop a bullet and no car can outrun fate," he pontificates.

Co-stars are largely squandered and were it not for the introduction of Jennifer Morrison as a scheming cop with a penchant for blackmail, female representation in 2018 Atlanta would be too close to 1972 Harlem for comfort.

Damon Smith