A son unravels the mystery of his father’s murder in Pokemon Detective Pikachu, a rollicking fantasy adventure which milks every drop of delicious deadpan humour from Ryan Reynolds as the voice of the titular rodent-like critter, who can be trained to emit an electric discharge.
A script credited to four writers including director Rob Letterman crackles with energy as a perplexing case of corporate corruption unfolds in breathless action set pieces including one jaw-dropping race for survival through a collapsing woodland.
“At this point, how can you NOT believe in climate change?!” shrieks Pikachu with tongue wedged firmly in furry yellow cheek.
As a convoluted crime caper, Letterman’s fast-paced family-oriented film breathes deeply an air of preposterousness that would instantly pique the curiosity of Scooby-Doo, Shaggy and the rest of the Mystery Inc. gang.
Very young audiences will unmask the villain well before the appearance of Mewtoo and a shady scientist played in holographic flashbacks by Rita Ora.
The chief pleasure of Detective Pikachu is the rapport between lead actor Justice Smith and his digitally-rendered sidekick, brought vividly to life by Reynolds channelling a PG-friendly version of his wisecracking Deadpool persona.
Tim Goodman (Smith) receives the sad news that his estranged father, Detective Harry Goodman, has been killed in a car accident in Ryme City. The orphaned 21-year-old travels with best friend Jack (Karan Soni) to the futuristic metropolis, which was established by billionaire Howard Clifford (Bill Nighy) as the only place on Earth where humans and Pokemons coexist in harmony.
“No battles, no Pokeballs, no trainers,” Jack explains to his best friend.
Tim meets Ryme City police detective Yoshida (Ken Watanabe), who provides a set of keys to Harry’s apartment.
Inside, Tim discovers his father’s Pokemon, Pikachu (voiced by Reynolds), who claims to be suffering amnesia after the crash that supposedly killed Harry.
Sifting through his father’s belongings, Tim discovers a vial of a noxious purple liquid, which transforms normally docile Pokemon into crazed predators.
A cub TV reporter called Lucy Stevens (Kathryn Newton) is already on the case and her finger of suspicion points to Howard Clifford’s power-hungry son Roger (Chris Geere).
Detective Pikachu employs slick digital trickery to surround Tim with a menagerie of weird and wonderful critters including Lucy’s Pokemon, Psyduck, which reacts explosively to stress.
Some of Reynolds’ risque asides will fly comfortably over the heads of the target audience and land squarely with amused parents and teenagers, for whom Letterman’s film should be – whisper it – a guilty pleasure.
THE HUSTLE (12A) Three stars
Oscar-winner Anne Hathaway and Pitch Perfect whirlwind Rebel Wilson scam dirty rotten scoundrels in a raucous comedy, which marks the feature film directorial debut of Welsh stand-up comedian and actor Chris Addison.
Josephine Chesterfield (Anne Hathaway) is a skilled con woman, who has mastered acting techniques and specialist skills such as knife-throwing to wrap any unsuspecting man around her lacquered little finger.
During a train journey, she encounters undisciplined scam artist Penny Rust (Rebel Wilson), who is in dire need of refinement. Josephine generously agrees to take Penny under her designer label wing and polish away some of the rough edges.
Penny undergoes a rigorous regime of physical exercise and mental acrobatics so she can successfully partner Josephine on high-stakes cons. Their duplicitous double-act’s first target is socially inept technology millionaire Thomas Westerburg (Alex Sharp), who has no clue how to behave around women. Josephine and Penny spark a friendly rivalry to win Thomas’s affections. The games of one-upwomanship gradually spiral out of control.
THE CORRUPTED (18) Two stars
Crime and punishment trade bruising blows in director Ron Scalpello’s gritty crime thriller set against the backdrop of East London’s gleaming skyscrapers and dockside cranes.
Scripted by Nick Moorcroft, The Corrupted is handcuffed to a motley crew of dodgy cops, idealistic journalists and sadistic crimelords, who meet foolhardy challenges to their authority with an abattoir bolt gun to the cranium.
These are the kind of morally warped characters who toss rivals into shallow graves and foreshadow downfall with a gnarly one-liner: “Get out now or there’s only two places you’re going to end up: a wooden box or a concrete one!”
Blood pools beneath the capital’s soaring skyline, which looks breath-taking through cinematographer Richard Mott’s lens, contrasting the bright lights of Canary Wharf with the darkened desires of men in power.
Composer Andrew Kawczynski channels the Bourne films with his unnecessarily bombastic score and Scalpello follows suit with an impressively staged and wince-inducing fight sequence in a living room, which gleefully cranks up the machismo and brutality. The Corrupted wears its 18 certificate for strong bloody violence as a badge of honour.
The Corrupted is slickly engineered with familiar tropes recalling The Long Good Friday and a rich tradition of glowering gangsters and goons, not to mention the BBC series Line Of Duty.
Scalpello’s film doesn’t scale those dizzy heights of narrative sophistication and nail-biting tension, but Claflin is a likeable if underwritten pawn in a satisfyingly tangled conspiracy and Moorcroft’s script unspools with one genuine shock.
Spall vanishes behind the snarl of his crime boss, who senses power slipping through his power-hungry fingers and warns: “If this ship goes down, everybody goes down!” Disagree at your peril.