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

Maybe the dingo ate your baby.

Seinfeld 2.9: The Stranded The Premise George and Elaine are stranded at a party in Long Island, with a disgruntled hostess.

Nanobots aren’t just for Christmas.

No Time to Die (2021) (SPOILERS) You know a Bond movie is in trouble when it resorts to wholesale appropriation of lines and even the theme song from another in order to “boost” its emotional heft. That No Time to Die – which previewed its own title song a year and a half before its release to resoundingly underwhelmed response, Grammys aside – goes there is a damning indictment of its ability to eke out such audience investment in Daniel Craig’s final outing as James (less so as 007). As with Spectre , the first half of No Time to Die is, on the whole, more than decent Bond fare, before it once again gets bogged down in the quest for substance and depth from a character who, regardless of how dapper his gear is, resolutely resists such outfitting.

Are you, by any chance, in a trance now, Mr Morrison?

The Doors (1991) (SPOILERS) Oliver Stone’s mammoth, mythologising paean to Jim Morrison is as much about seeing himself in the self-styled, self-destructive rebel figurehead, and I suspect it’s this lack of distance that rather quickly leads to The Doors becoming a turgid bore. It’s strange – people are , you know, films equally so – but I’d hitherto considered the epic opus patchy but worthwhile, a take that disintegrated on this viewing. The picture’s populated with all the stars it could possibly wish for, tremendous visuals (courtesy of DP Robert Richardson) and its director operating at the height of his powers, but his vision, or the incoherence thereof, is the movie’s undoing. The Doors is an indulgent, sprawling mess, with no internal glue to hold it together dramatically. “Jim gets fat and dies” isn’t really a riveting narrative through line.

Ladies and gentlemen, this could be a cultural misunderstanding.

Mars Attacks! (1996) (SPOILERS) Ak. Akk-akk! Tim Burton’s gleefully ghoulish sci-fi was his first real taste of failure. Sure, there was Ed Wood , but that was cheap, critics loved it, and it won Oscars. Mars Attacks! was BIG, though, expected to do boffo business, and like more than a few other idiosyncratic spectaculars of the 1990s ( Last Action Hero , Hudson Hawk ) it bombed BIG. The effect on Burton was noticeable. He retreated into bankable propositions (the creative and critical nadir perhaps being Planet of the Apes , although I’d rate it much higher than the likes of Alice in Wonderland and Dumbo ) and put the brakes on his undisciplined goth energy. Something was lost. Mars Attacks! is far from entirely successful, but it finds the director let loose with his own playset and sensibility intact, apparently given the licence to do what he will.

I think I’m Pablo Picasso!

Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021) (SPOILERS) I get the impression that, whatever it is stalwart Venom fans want from a Venom movie, this iteration isn’t it. The highlight here for me is absolutely the wacky, love-hate, buddy-movie antics of Tom Hardy and his symbiote alter. That was the best part of the original, before it locked into plot “progression” and teetered towards a climax where one CGI monster with gnarly teeth had at another CGI monster with gnarly teeth. And so it is for Venom: Let There Be Carnage . But cutting quicker to the chase.

Big things have small beginnings.

Prometheus (2012) Post- Gladiator , Ridley Scott opted for an “All work and no pondering” approach to film making. The result has been the completion of as many movies since the turn of the Millennium as he directed in the previous twenty years. Now well into his seventies, he has experienced the most sustained period of success of his career.  For me, it’s also been easily the least-interesting period. All of them entirely competently made, but all displaying the machine-tooled approach that was previously more associated with his brother.

I can do in two weeks what you can only wish to do in twenty years.

Wrath of Man (2021) (SPOILERS) Guy Ritchie’s stripped-down remake of Le Convoyeur (or Cash Truck , also the working title for this movie) feels like an intentional acceleration in the opposite direction to 2019’s return-to-form The Gentleman , his best movie in years. Ritchie seems to want to prove he can make a straight thriller, devoid of his characteristic winks, nods, playfulness and outright broad (read: often extremely crude) sense of humour. Even King Arthur: Legend of the Sword has its fair share of laughs. Wrath of Man is determinedly grim, though, almost Jacobean in its doom-laden trajectory, and Ritchie casts his movie accordingly, opting for more restrained performers, less likely to summon more flamboyant reflexes.

So the devil's child will rise from the world of politics.

The Omen (1976) (SPOILERS) The coming of the Antichrist is an evergreen; his incarnation, or the reveal thereof, is always just round the corner, and he can always be definitively identified in any given age through a spot of judiciously subjective interpretation of The Book of Revelation , or Nostradamus. Probably nothing did more for the subject in the current era, in terms of making it part of popular culture, than The Omen . That’s irrespective of the movie’s quality, of course. Which, it has to be admitted, is not on the same level as earlier demonic forebears Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist .

These are not soda cans you asked me to get for you.

The Devil’s Own (1997) (SPOILERS) Naturally, a Hollywood movie taking the Troubles as a backdrop is sure to encounter difficulties. It’s the push-pull of wanting to make a big meaningful statement about something weighty, sobering and significant in the real world and bottling it when it comes to the messy intricacies of the same. So inevitably, the results invariably tend to the facile and trite. I’m entirely sure The Devil’s Own would have floundered even if Harrison Ford hadn’t come on board and demanded rewrites, but as it is, the finished movie packs a lot of talent to largely redundant end.

Fifty medications didn’t work because I’m really a reincarnated Russian blacksmith?

Infinite (2021) (SPOILERS) It’s as if Mark Wahlberg, his lined visage increasingly resembling a perplexed potato, learned nothing from the blank ignominy of his “performances” in previous big-budget sci-fi spectacles Planet of the Apes and, er, Max Payne . And maybe include The Happening in that too ( Transformers doesn’t count, since even all-round reprobate Shia La Boeuf made no visible dent on their appeal either way). As such, pairing him with the blandest of journeyman action directors on Infinite was never going to seem like a sterling idea, particularly with a concept so far removed from of either’s wheelhouse.