Brothers Anthony and Joe Russo had racked up a lot of directing credits before taking on "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" — mostly with TV comedies such as "Happy Endings," "Community" and "Arrested Development."
It's a monumental leap from milking a few laughs out of a script and to a big-budget superhero movie, but the brothers make it with ease. They combine a knuckle-whitening car chase, an extremely original take on a standard fight scene and an explosive conclusion to make "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" one of the top three movies based on a Marvel comic ever made.
Chris Evans returns to the role of the All-American hero. His efforts to adjust to the modern world are disrupted when S.H.I.E.L.D. — the organization that leads the defense of the planet from super threats — comes under attack. The more that Captain American digs into the assault, the more he begins to question what is right and what is wrong.
Making the investigation even more complicated is a mysterious new villain, The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), who has powers that rival Captain America's.
Helping in the fight are the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and the newly introduced Falcon (Anthony Mackie). They are the last line of defense when S.H.I.E.L.D. begins to crumble.
The directing brothers inherited two actors in Evans and Johansson who fully understand how to play costumed characters without making them campy. Evans captures that mix of flag-waving hero and innocence that makes Cap more than a two-dimensional character.
And Johansson keeps adding to the layers of her character, which makes the Black Widow more interesting with each movie.
It's easy to overlook the acting in big action movies. But from Evans to Robert Redford, who plays a man of power with a hidden agenda, the cast treats the story like a serious drama and sells the story.
The two directors bring a fresh approach to action scenes that shows they understand the pacing of this genre, which has to keep the punches and bullets flying while still looking into the mythology of the characters that fans of the comic books know so well.
In a genre that gets more crowded every day, the Russo brothers have distinguished themselves by making "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" a film that shows great muscle through a fresh perspective but remains loyal to the elements that have made past films a hit.
Keep in mind that the film continues the Marvel trend of having bonus material after the movie credits. In this case, there are two extra scenes.
"Captain America: The Winter Soldier," rated PG-13 for violence. Stars Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Anthony Mackie, Robert Redford and Sebastian Stan. Directed by brothers Anthony and Joe Russo. Running time: 136 minutes. Grade: A