Skip to main content

You come to my office and you plant a fucking bomb?!

The Foreigner
(2017)

(SPOILERS) If nothing else, The Foreigner proves Martin Campbell is still more than capable of handling the action rigours of another Bond movie (please, Eon get someone in who can focus on what’s essential, like killing bad guys with wanton relish). Unfortunately, his tail-between-his-legs six-year break from the big screen following the disastrously-received Green Lantern has been curtailed for a feature that only ever feels like two different ones spliced together, both of them beached from a different time. One is a mid-90s actioner in which a B-movie star attempts to flex their thespian muscles and doesn’t quite pull it off. The other, a nominally serious-minded post-Troubles picture that might have seemed more relevant a decade – or more – ago with its essentially pulp fiction version of Gerry Adams.


As lurid as the Liam Hennessy character is, a former IRA man now Northern Ireland’s First Minister who has obviously not turned over the new non-violent leaf he flourishes in public, Pierce Brosnan’s performance anchors The Foreigner and does enough to make several sections both engrossing and entertaining. There’s no getting away from his plotline being deeply daft – he ordered the bombings that killed the daughter of Ngoc Minh Quan (Jackie Chan), but it was a piece of political graft and there should have been warnings given beforehand; that there weren’t turns out to be a piece of machination at the behest of his wife (Orla Brady), no less, disgruntled at his appeasement and service to the Brits… Did I mention that she is shagging Liam’s nephew? – but Brosnan, one of the most consistently underrated leading men left standing, lends conviction and an Oirish accent to his beleaguered politician. When the pressure starts to mount, it isn’t Chan going all John Rambo in the woods that impresses, it’s Pierce beating the shoit out of Dermot Crowley and shooting him in the legs (capping it all by popping a cap in his head).


Jackie may want to be taken seriously as an actor, but a sombre, buttoned-down disposition isn’t his forte. The Foreigner is based on The Chinaman (those on Quan’s trail assume he is Chinese, designating him with the title’s racist epithet), a 1992 novel by Stephen Leather, and it’s unable to shrug off those yesteryear trappings. Chan moves through the proceedings out of step with the prevailing political pandemonium, even when Quan’s directly influencing it, and Campbell has to adjust to accommodate (Chan’s moves are single-shot affairs, even at his age, so the director is forced to hold back on his more muscular, potent editing style during such sequences). Campbell’s construction of the set pieces (in particular, Quan posing as the gas man before making short work of the bombers in their safe house) is as efficient as ever, but Chan is unable to make Quan an interesting or compelling character (despite his Special Forces training and dogged determination), and thus we spend our time waiting for the story to cut back to Brosnan.


The good news is that The Foreigner was a modest hit, largely down to its Chinese box office (nearly 60% of the global gross), which should spell progress on whatever Campbell wants to make next (he has Across the River and Into the Trees with Brosnan and Ana with Gong Li on his slate). Brosnan, of course, has made a habit of giving juicy supporting performances in unremarkable genre fare of late (Survivor, No Escape) when really, he deserves the kind of unlikely aging action star career of Liam Neeson. Perhaps he should team with Liam for something. The last time they did (Seraphim Falls), the results were terrific.



Agree? Disagree? Mildly or vehemently? Let me know in the comments below.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

If you never do anything, you never become anyone.

An Education (2009)
Carey Mulligan deserves all the attention she received for her central performance, and the depiction of the ‘60s is commendably subdued. I worried there was going to be a full-blown music montage sequence at the climax that undid all the good work, but thankfully it was fairly low key. 

Alfred Molina and Olivia Williams are especially strong in the supporting roles, and it's fortunate for credibility’s sake that that Orlando Bloom had to drop out and Dominic Cooper replaced him.
***1/2

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

Can you close off your feelings so you don’t get crippled by the moral ambiguity of your violent actions?

Spider-Man Worst to Best

I should have mailed it to the Marx Brothers.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
When your hero(es) ride off into the sunset at the end of a film, it’s usually a pretty clear indication that a line is being drawn under their adventures. Sure, rumours surfaced during the ‘90s of various prospective screenplays for a fourth outing for the whip-cracking archeologist. But I’m dubious anyone really expected it to happen. There seemed to be a natural finality to Last Crusade that made the announcement of his 2007 return nostalgically welcome but otherwise unwarranted. That it turned out so tepid merely seemed like confirmation of what we already knew; Indy’s time was past.

Do you read Sutter Cane?

In the Mouth of Madness (1994)
(SPOILERS) The concluding chapter of John Carpenter’s unofficial Apocalypse Trilogy (preceded by The Thing and Prince of Darkness) is also, sadly, his last great movie. Indeed, it stands apart in the qualitative wilderness that beset him during the ‘90s (not for want of output). Michael De Luca’s screenplay had been doing the rounds since the ‘80s, even turned down by Carpenter at one point, and it proves ideal fodder for the director, bringing out the best in him. Even cinematographer Gary K Kibbe seems inspired enough to rise to the occasion. It could do without the chugging rawk soundtrack, perhaps, but then, that was increasingly where Carpenter’s interests resided (as opposed to making decent movies).

Everyone who had a talent for it lived happily ever after.

Empire 30:  Favourite Films of the Last 30 Years
Empire’s readers’ poll to celebrate its thirtieth birthday – a request for the ultimate thirty films of the last thirty years, one per year from 1989 – required a bit of thought, particularly since they weren’t just limiting it to your annual favourite (“These can be the films that impressed you the most, the ones that stuck with you, that brought you joy, or came to you at just the right time”). Also – since the question was asked on Twitter, although I don’t know how rigorous they’re being; does it apply to general release, or does it include first film festival showings? – they’re talking UK release dates, rather than US, calling for that extra modicum of mulling. To provide more variety, I opted to limit myself to just one film per director; otherwise, my thirty would have been top heavy with, at very least, Coen Brothers movies. So here’s they are, with runners-up and reasoning:

You're always sorry, Charles, and there's always a speech, but nobody cares anymore.

X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019)
(SPOILERS) To credit its Rotten Tomatoes score (22%), you’d think X-Men: Dark Phoenix was a travesty that besmirched the name of all good and decent (read: MCU proper) superhero movies, or even last week’s underwhelming creature feature (Godzilla: King of Monsters has somehow reached 40%, despite being a lesser beast in every respect). Is the movie’s fate a self-fulfilling prophecy, what with delayed release dates and extensively reported reshoots? Were critics castigating a fait accompli turkey without giving it a chance? That would be presupposing they’re all sheep, though, and in fairness, other supposed write-offs havecome back from such a brink in the past (World War Z). Whatever the feelings of the majority, Dark Phoenix is actually a mostly okay (twelfth) instalment in the X-franchise – it’s exactly what you’d expect from an X-Men movie at this point, one without any real mojo left and a variable cast struggling to pull its weight. The third act is a bi…

What, you're going to walk in there like it's the commie Disneyland or something?

Stranger Things 3 (2019)
(SPOILERS) It’s very clear by this point that Stranger Things isn’t going to serve up any surprises. It’s operating according to a strict formula, one requiring the opening of the portal to the Upside Down every season and an attendant demagorgon derivative threat to leak through, only to be stymied at the last moment by our valorous team. It’s an ‘80s sequel cycle through and through, and if you’re happy with it functioning exclusively on that level, complete with a sometimes overpowering (over)dose of nostalgia references, this latest season will likely strike you as just the ticket.

You want to investigate me, roll the dice and take your chances.

A Few Good Men (1992)
(SPOILERS) Aaron Sorkin has penned a few good manuscripts in his time, but A Few Good Men, despite being inspired by an actual incident (one related to him by his sister, an army lawyer on a case at the time), falls squarely into the realm of watchable but formulaic. I’m not sure I’d revisited the entire movie since seeing it at the cinema, but my reaction is largely the same: that it’s about as impressively mounted and star-studded as Hollywood gets, but it’s ultimately a rather empty courtroom drama.

Why would I turn into a filing cabinet?

Captain Marvel (2019)
(SPOILERS) All superhero movies are formulaic to a greater or lesser degree. Mostly greater. The key to an actually great one – or just a pretty good one – is making that a virtue, rather than something you’re conscious of limiting the whole exercise. The irony of the last two stand-alone MCU pictures is that, while attempting to bring somewhat down-the-line progressive cachet to the series, they’ve delivered rather pedestrian results. Of course, that didn’t dim Black Panther’s cultural cachet (and what do I know, swathes of people also profess to loving it), and Captain Marvel has hit half a billion in its first few days – it seems that, unless you’re poor unloved Ant-Man, an easy $1bn is the new $700m for the MCU – but neither’s protagonist really made that all-important iconic impact.