Darke Reviews | The Foreigner (2017)

One of two reviews tonight, so apologies if they are both not as in depth as others tend to be. While I don’t sleep *much* even Undead Princesses need some rest prior to putting on her guise of a normal mostly functional human being to obtain income. I first came across the trailer for The Foreigner a month or so ago and was delighted to see Jackie Chan in a role as a heavy against Pierce Brosnan. There was just something in the trailer beyond what looked to be a fantastic performance from Chan that grabbed my attention and apparently others as well. If you aren’t familiar. Here you go:

Looks interesting right? Good action and of course you know Jackie does his own stunts when he can.

So should you see it?

Based on a book titled “The Chinaman” by Stephen Leather, and converted to a screenplay by David Marconi. Now Marconi is best known for his story of Die Hard 4 (Live Free or Die Hard) and Enemy of the State; which puts him in solid political thriller territory as a writer. Considering how LFDH looks, I would say he wrote a story and the other producers  shoved John McClain down it’s throat rather than it originally being a Die Hard movie. After a quick check to the Wiki, turns out that was a correct theory. Huh. With that sort of pedigree he does seem appropriate to adapt this story.

I want to talk about Leather for a moment. When I write these reviews I do some *very cursory* research to tell you about who they are and other things they’ve done. Something in Leather’s IMDB profile caught my eye. A story/TV movie called the Bombmaker; which has this as the story: “A former IRA bombmaker is forced to resume her craft when her daughter is kidnapped.” Now what are the odds of a writer having two books about the IRA and bombs? Turns out Stephen is from Manchester and worked as a journalist during the time the IRA was active and roughly around the time they bombed Harrods in ’83. I suppose this would inspire me as well to have a perspective and want to write about it.

Write he did, the story of a former special forces soldier from South East asia (Vietnam in the book, China in the movie) whose daughter is killed in an explosion. He then travels to Ireland to seek revenge on the killers.

Straight forward plot, so to make it something we need a director. For this task we gain Martin Campbell, who brought us Casino Royale, Mask of Zorro and Golden Eye (Yay!); but also brought us Legend of Zorro and Green Lantern (ugh). Ignoring the latter half of that list, let’s look at Casino Royale. Ostensibly an intense spy thriller with twists, turns, and solid action. The camera work and acting were well done and the movie revitalized a franchise that had been on life support for a few years.  The question was of course, at this point, could a director like this direct Jackie Chan?

I am happy to report yes. Yes he can. While on a technical side, I wasn’t a fan of a few of the camera angles and shots overall it was well crafted and spent a lot of time making sure to show what could be shown and hide what needed to be. Face it dear readers, Jackie Chan is 63 and he is amazing but he is not going to pull Rumble in the Bronx stunts anymore. Especially when his trademark use anything style isn’t in the forefront of the movie, though don’t worry you do get some of it. What amazed me most though is his choices involving Jackie and the amount of pain that was expressed through acting and camera. It takes no time at all for me to nearly be in tears just from how Jackie performed the scene immediately after the bombing and how it was all shot to bring it together and deliver the required weight.  I liked what action there was and it felt plausible for each of the characters involved and their backgrounds and associated skills.

From a performance, I cannot gush enough on Mr. Chan. His performance is so consistent and weighty throughout. He feels and looks like an elder man who is broken by too much weight of loss on his shoulders. The way he shuffles with each step plays so well when matched against his action sequences. It all stays within the realm of character and capability and knowing the actor you know what is in camera is him; which makes it even better. Brosnan finally gets to use his birth accent. The Irish born, UK Raised actor really delivers here. While not as convincing or powerful as his films nemesis he is standout and believable in his role. Game of Thrones fans will be delighted to see Michael McElhatton (Roose Bolton) in a supporting role in the film. The only other actor that stands out is Rory Fleck Byrne. There is something about him rather than anything specific in his performance that made him quite riveting during his scenes. I promise you it has nothing to do with him being in Vampire Academy. I find nothing good coming out of that movie.

TL;DR?

The Foreigner is a good film. I liked it. I can recommend it, but with some warnings. It is not an action movie, it is more of a political thriller with action set pieces, like something Clancy would have given us in the 90s. I am not nearly familiar enough with the troubles between Ireland and England beyond some surface knowledge of the IRA, northern/southern Ireland, and that the IRA typically would warn people before setting off an explosion to minimize casualties.  This relationship between the countries features heavily in this story and almost as much screen time is devoted to it as there is the revenge story. This is a non spoiler warning that is worth mentioning as it sets proper expectations.

Should you see it?

If the trailer intrigued you and you haven’t seen Blade Runner 2049 yet? Yes. This is a well made movie with good action, a solid and understandable plot; which has characters you can understand the motivations of.

Will you buy it?

The odds are in this movies favor of it being added to the collection.

Anything else?

I hope I can move as well as Jackie Chan when I am his age. It was impressive to watch.

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Darke Reviews | 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

I owe you all an apology, I got home from London Has Fallen  last week and didn’t have the energy to write a review that night. The next day I still didn’t. The day after still no. I realized the movie was that mediocre that I had no energy to write it because I didn’t care enough. The action was ok. The effects were on the whole cheap. The tension was laughable. The acting, you don’t watch London Has Fallen for acting. You just watch it to see Gerard Butler kick butt – which he does. So there’s that.

Now during the Superbowl this year they revealed a trailer for a movie almost no one had heard of called 10 Cloverfield Lane. It’s rare in this day and age for a production to stay under the radar. Seeing the first trailer without any media hype a mere month and a half prior to the films release on something with names attached is even more unheard of. Then using the Cloverfield name in conjunction with J.J. Abrams automatically begins to conjures questions?

“Is it a sequel?”

“Is a prequel?”

“Is it tandem?”

“How is it related to the blockbuster first film?”

The producers then use that media buzz to let people talk about the movie – which is a smart play. They also spend their time answering all of those above questions “No it isn’t”. JJ has lied to us before (It’s not Khan) and cannot be trusted in that regard when it comes to a production. Why else call it Cloverfield when you have all the same names attached? “It’s a spiritual successor”, is a cheap answer. My feeling is that they wanted to created an anthology of movies around the “Cloverfield” conceit; which by it’s nature of real people in completely whacked out situations would wear thin. I mean the idea has merit once or twice, but to franchise the concept of Cloverfield can’t possibly work in the long term as a film series as you then need to spend time getting us to care (or not) about the characters then eventually have a reveal to the scale of their situation. Much like Shyamalan and his twists, when people come to expect them they spend the entire movie looking for the twist which then takes the wind out of it when it appears even if it is done intelligently.

400 words in and I haven’t discussed the movie I just watched. I’ve talked Hollywood, a movie I didn’t care to review to warn you to see or away from because it was that mediocre, JJ Abrams, and the concepts of how to build a franchise. I am really avoiding talking about the movie.

I didn’t like it. I wanted to. I really wanted to. I *like* the original Cloverfield. I didn’t get sick watching it. I liked the look of the monster. I cared about the characters and wanted to see Rob get to his girlfriend and them escape the monster. I wanted to see this and see how it ended.

I didn’t care here. The acting was fantastic. John Goodman was in full heavy mode and brought his impressive abilities to bear in a purely one dimensional role. He made it something more by using his physical presence and his acting to try to make it more than what was written. Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s character of Michelle was engaging. She was smart, she was willful, and clever. I have liked her since Wolf Lake, Sky High, and thought her Ramona Flowers in Scott Pilgrim was on point. She didn’t do anything out of character, she didn’t turn into a “Final Girl” she just was. It worked and I liked her. John Gallagher Jr. as Emmet was a solid everyman. I went to school with people like him, I’ve worked with folks like him. The acting was FINE. It was Solid. It was Good.

What they had to work with sucked. There’s no twists. The tension doesn’t hold because they let you see some of the elements too early. They, being Matthew Stuecken (producer of GI Joe Rise of the Cobra and the Mummy 3), Josh Campbell (editor of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Van Helsing), and Damien Chazelle (writer of Whiplash) have invoked the three writer rule.  I lay blame on Dan Trachtenberg, in his big screen directorial debut, as well. They give you too much too soon of the wrong elements and it takes away from the movie. It breaks rather than builds the tension because you become certain of things and those things are only solidified rather than challenged when opportunity presented itself.

I verge into spoiler territory if I say more, and even though I dislike the film I need to keep to the rules.

If the intent here was to give novice writers and directors a chance to tell a story within the guardrails of a type of universe under the watchful eye of successful novices such as Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Let Me In) and Drew Goddard (The Martian, Cabin in the Woods), and Bryan Burk (Star Wars the Force Awakens), then I feel they failed. They succeeded in the attempt, but they failed in the guidance. I found nothing beyond the acting enjoyable here. The movie struck emotional chords in the performances, but gave nothing else for me to do with them. It was not well constructed or articulated.

If anything I would compare it to…hmm no. That would be a spoiler.

TL;DR?

Don’t see it. Expect more from your sci fi. Expect more from your movies. They need to try harder.

This was an attempt to do something original, for that I could praise it, but when we have things like The VVitch out there which also do original and do it better. We need to expect more.

Do I recommend it? No. Save your money.

 Will I buy it? No.

Next two weeks have a chance to give some enjoyment with Allegiant and Superman v Batman. Here’s hoping.