Blog Archives

The Foreigner – ★ ★ ★ ★ Review

The Foreigner40

An excellent action-thriller that hit all the right notes.

Jackie Chan plays Quan, a father whose daughter is killed in an terrorist explosion in London.  A faction of the IRA is claiming responsibility, but the authorities are having no luck tracking them down.  When Chan learns that the Northern Ireland deputy First Minister, Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan), had past ties to the IRA and might know how to catch the bombers, he presses the man relentlessly for information about the killers, information he insists he doesn’t have.  Quan doesn’t believe him, and for good reason.  Hennessy is busy tracking down the bombers himself because he doesn’t just have past ties to the IRA, he has active ties too that actually didn’t seem to have anything to do with this particular bombing.

I think I first saw the trailer for The Foreigner in October last year, and was rather upset that it didn’t play in cinemas around my home.  Though this isn’t necessarily one of the huge blockbusters that I usually deem theatre worthy, I really did want to see it and would have gone to see it in theatres.  Several months later it came out on DVD and I watched it (and yes, I know, several more months later I’m actually reviewing it).

Jackie Chan was absolutely excellent.  He played the role very seriously, as did everyone else, but there was no comedy on his part in this performance, which is something he is know for bringing into his films.  Even in the most serious action scene there is usually some funny spot in his films, but this time he played the part of a 65 year old man, who was mourning the loss of his daughter and he wanted to do something about it.  Chan played serious as I said, but he also “acted his age”.  Quan is a seasoned former black-ops type soldier, so he clearly has lethal skills but they aren’t as polished as they once were.  He now fights like a older man, he is not as fast, not as strong, but his training makes him just as effective and I thought made the film more believable.  Yes, Chan still got in a few of his “signature moves”; in most of his movies that I’ve seen when someone attacks him with a knife, he pulls off his jacket or grabs a towel or something and twists and ties up the attacker’s arms, dodging the attack and looking pretty cool at the same time.  He does that in The Foreigner too, but he does it slower, and clumsier than in his other films.  Pierce Brosnan was also excellent and at times just as brutal, taking his own brand of justice into his own hands, on the good guys, on the bad guys, on his friends and even on his own family.  A very clever thriller, and at times a brutally honest revenge film.

Bottom Line: I like the serious Jackie Chan.


November Man – ★ ★ ★ ½ DVD Review

Product Details3.5 Stars

These were the thoughts that went through my mind as I saw the first trailers for November Man:  Pierce Brosnan as a spy?  I think we’ve done that already, but okay.  Pierce Brosnan as a “retired” spy pulled back into the game and about to be assassinated by his protégé? Alright, I’m sold.

And that is essentially what the film was.  Pierce Brosnan plays Peter Devereaux, a former CIA agent who is brought back under secret circumstances to extract a government asset from Russia.  The agent is lost, and Devereaux tries to find out what she was working on.  In doing so, he meets Alice (Olga Kurylenko), the social worker who is the only one who has any information about someone who will bring down the man who will likely be the next Russian president, a suspected war criminal named Arkady Federov (Lazar Ristovski).  As Devereaux is a rogue factor and getting too close his former protégé, Mason (Luke Bracey), is brought in to stop him.  Is there a mole in the CIA?  Which agent is it? What is Alice not telling Devereaux?  And what’s up with Alexa (Amila Terzimehic), the beautiful, but deadly Russian assassin? (Of course aren’t all assassin’s supposed to be deadly?)

This was an entertaining flick.  The action was good and the story was fairly intelligent with a twist or two thrown in for good measure.  The natural selling point of course is Brosnan who slips back into his spy skin without missing a beat.  In my mind he is making up for Die Another Day, which I thought was a terrible Bond film.  November Man is (surprise, surprise) based on a book by Bill Granger, who wrote a series of novels about Peter Devereaux.  November Man was directed by Roger Donaldson who directed Brosnan in Dante’s Peak in 1997.

Bottom Line:  Lots of gun fights, fist fights, car chases and deceit to help you enjoy your popcorn.

Long Way Down – DVD Review 3/5 stars

Product Details3 Stars

Four people meet on a rooftop one New Year’s Eve.  Martin (Pierce Brosnan) is a disgraced morning television host, Maureen (Toni Collette) is a middle aged single mother of a handicapped child, Jess (Imogen Poots) is the daughter of a politician and JJ (Aaron Paul) is a pizza delivery boy.  They’re all on the same roof on the same night to kill themselves.  All there for different reasons, all wanting to die alone, the presence of the others causes each of them to stop.  As they go their separate ways, Martin stops to give Maureen a ride home, picks up JJ whose vehicle has died, and rescues Jess from the elements and traffic.  In the car, they start to learn about each other, and why they wanted to kill themselves.  Martin is disappointed with his life, Jess was dumped on New Year’s Eve, JJ has cancer and Maureen has a reason she wishes to keep private. Jess gets dropped off at a club and separates from the group, looking to find her ex-boyfriend; concerned the others try to find her, and when they do discover she’s overdosed on pills, thankfully Jess is rushed to the hospital in time.  Grateful that her new friends saved her, she makes them all agree that none of them will try to kill themselves until Valentine’s Day (the next biggest suicide day of the year).  Ironically they draw up their “anti-suicide pact” on the back of Maureen’s suicide note.  At this moment, the four new friends really become a family as they all begin to look out for each other, and help each other through their respective struggles.

I had heard A Long Way Down was a dark comedy, and it certainly filled that quite nicely.  There were some very funny scenes, and those darkly funny scenes that I probably shouldn’t have laughed at as hard as I did.  I believe the story was a book first, and it almost is presented that way as a movie.  Each character is given a “chapter”.  Martin is first and his chapter introduces us to the cast and sets the ball rolling, Jess’ chapter reveals how the group’s relationship grows.  JJ’s chapter brings the conflict to the group, and Maureen’s chapter draws everyone back together and closes everything out nicely.  It may not have been how I expected the story to be told, but it still worked quite nicely.  Each chapter was a nice individual character study, and gave each of the actors a chance to stand out in an ensemble cast. I guess the usual applies to A Long Way Down, it had an excellent cast who all did very well, and it was quite well written.  Other than that, there’s not too much else to say, I enjoyed it, but it was just a typical light quirky comedy with a few messages about life you can take with you.

Bottom Line:  I had to do a double take as I watched the credits and they listed Rosamund Pike as highly as they did.  She’s great, but was really only in the film for a few minutes.  Still nice to see her, but I’m really looking forward to Hector and the Search for Happiness with Simon Pegg.

The World’s End – DVD Review 3½ stars

Product Details3.5 Stars

As the third movie in Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Edgar Wright’s “Cornetto trilogy”, The World’s End may suffer a little bit with comparisons to the trio’s prior films.  The World’s End was quite funny and action packed, but in my opinion was the weakest of the three films.  Shaun of the Dead was brilliant, but Hot Fuzz was my favourite, as a fan of British crime drama the spin it took was fantastic to me.  Perhaps The World’s End was trickier because it wasn’t the first, there had been lots of humourous science fiction films before it.  Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz kind of paved the way with their humourous spins on their respective genres and were something that we really hadn’t seen before.

In The World’s End we follow a group of five childhood friends who are reunited by their ringleader Gary King (Pegg), who wants to relive what he feels was the greatest night of their life. The night they tried to complete the “Golden Mile”, a pub crawl through their hometown consisting of twelve pints at twelve pubs. They couldn’t complete it in their younger days, but somehow Gary convinces his friends, who have all moved on to seemingly successful lives, to come back to Newton Haven and try it again.  The only one who hasn’t moved on is Gary, who still drives the same Mk 2 Ford Granada he was driving 20 years ago.  Andy Knightly (Frost), Peter Page (Eddi Marsan), Steven Prince (Paddy Considine), Oliver Chamberlain (Martin Freeman) all fell out with Gary years ago and but because Gary said he got Andy to go along the others commit too.  As the “five musketeers” start along the pub trail, they discover that things in Newton Haven are not what they seem.  The town has been taken over by alien robots who have replaced most of the human citizens.  The action now kicks into high gear, as the terrifically choreographed fight sequences start, turning Nick Frost into an action hero.  The five friends meet up with Oliver’s sister Sam (Rosamund Pike) who joins them in their escape from the town.

What I love about these films is the reward you get if you pay attention; the films are full of foreshadowing and full of Easter Eggs. Did you notice that the main characters surnames all have royal/court connections: (Gary) King, (Andy) Knightly, (Peter) Page, (Steven) Prince, (Oliver) Chamberlain?  Or that Edgar Wright basically tells the entire story in the opening scenes?  The characters essentially meet the same fates that they met when they originally attempted the Golden Mile.  Even the names of the twelve pubs of the Golden Mile foreshadow the events that will take place there:

  • The first pub they visit is The First Post.
  • The second pub, The Old Familiar is exactly the same inside as The First Post. 
  • The Famous Cock is where Gary was banned for his actions as a teenager.
  • They get into a fight at The Cross Hands.
  • The drug dealer Reverend Green is met in The Trusted Servant.
  • They meet twin sisters in The Two-Headed Dog.
  • The characters are tempted to their downfall by beautiful women at The Mermaid, and the pub’s sign depicts a redhead mermaid with a blonde on each side, just like the “marmalade sandwich” that they meet inside.
  • They fight off swarms of robots enemies at The Beehive.
  • At The King’s Head, Gary King makes a last stand and decides to continue his journey without anyone else’s help, and the pub sign is a painting of Simon Pegg’s face.
  • Gary’s car is driven through The Hole in the Wall, leaving a hole in the wall.
  • Finally the events that transpire at The World’s End lead to the end of the world.

A nice switch in The World’s End, was that this time out Nick Frost played the kind, responsible friend and Simon Pegg played the much less likeable character.  He was a jerk, a drunkard and a bit of a loser at first.  Once things reveal themselves though, we understand how and why all the characters are where they are in their lives. The World’s End developed it’s characters very well through their various personal reveals and flashbacks.  I really enjoyed the journeys that all of them took, and it really made me care about them which added to my enjoyment of the film.

Ghost Writer, The

Product Details4 Stars

So I’ve just finished The Ghost Writer, and I do wish there were more movies made like this one.  It was a wonderful, well written, suspenseful thriller.  There were moments of high tension, high drama, intrigue, danger, action and even humour.  While the style of the film did not seem it, the story seemed to have many Hitchcock-esque overtones.

Everything clicks in this movie.  The weather; which changes from the bright beginning, overcast introduction, slight chance of showers to a full out storm, and then back again; is expertly crafted with the narrative going on around it.  The score works well, from the incidental music to the use of the ringing telephones.  Polanski has chosen an excellent cast as well, and it was very nice to see Eli Wallach still working, and delivering a great, though small performance. Olivia Williams was excellent in her role as the former Prime Minister’s wife, though I find it a little curious that she was cast given the age difference between her and Brosnan.  In fact one part of the film puts her at Cambridge in 1974 when Olivia herself would have only been six years old.  This is a minor thing though, as her character was very intriguing.

The plot is rather simple in its complications.  A former British Prime Minister (Pierce Brosnan) hires a ghost writer to help finish his autobiography after the death of his last ghost writer.  Was the death an accident?  A suicide?  A murder?  The ghost writer (Ewan McGregor) comes in just as the PM is thrust back into the international spotlight with allegations of war crimes.  From here on, clues are discovered, and you really don’t know who the “good guys” really are.  I will admit that I did solve one  main plot line on my own, probably a good half an hour or so before the reveal, as it was pretty obvious and the clues are all there for you.  I must say I enjoyed this, not to toot my own horn, but because I do really dislike movies that purposely hold back the clues so you could never, ever guess an ending until they want you to.  This being said, there are still plenty of shockers at the end of the film that will keep you entertained.

A nice touch is that you never learn the name of McGregor’s character.  The “Ghost” is simply there, and never addressed or introduced by name by anyone or to anyone.  Even the subtitles of the DVD introduce his off screen lines as “GHOST: xxxxx”.

There are many similarities to Brosnan’s Lang and Ex PM Tony Blair, but really, I found the story and directing to take a life of their own, and leave their real life comparisons and inspirations to their own ends.  This film was a bit long at 2 Hours 8 Minutes, but really didn’t seen to drag or have any scenes that could have been cut out.  All that was included was there for a reason, and a lot goes on in the background and even in the off camera dialogue, that is great if you pay attention to it.

%d bloggers like this: