THE FOREIGNER easily contains both Jackie Chan AND Pierce Brosnan’s best performances…ever. But what I was also surprised to discover is that this movie wasn’t just another Taken or solely just another revenge plot film. It is actually a stunningly great political thriller at its forefront with that zesty revenge side dish that we all know so well. It was breathtaking and fresh to witness a film where, going into it, I thought it would just be all Jackie Chan butt-kicking action but in an R rating setting. Boy was I wrong. There is action, but not too much to the point of ridiculousness, but the film has more of a political terrorist plot that had me hypnotized throughout the 2 hour run time. With all those ingredients in this pot, this is a film you definitely do not want to miss.
Simple set up: Chan’s daughter is killed when a bomb outside a shopping center in London blows up, almost taking out Chan as well. Chan wants the police to catch the bombers first, but is impatient and decides he is going to find them and kill them himself. He targets a former IRA leader who is now an Irish Deputy Minister, played by Pierce Brosnan, because the bombers claim there are from the IRA. Hence without going into any spoilers, it becomes a large political terrorist plot with cat and mouse like proportions. Chan is trying to find the bombers that killed his daughter, and Brosnan is trying to find that bombers to get Chan off his back, while trying to keep his political power, but also downplaying that he was himself a terrorist way back when.
The movie is fantastically entertaining and resonant. The entire two hours kept me after the fact that I realized that the film wasn’t going to be “just another Taken” movie. I enjoyed the unraveling of the plot and while some things took me by surprise yet some didn’t, the journey kept at it to make me completely satisfied. The action, used sparingly is excellent, and Chan is finally showing his age, very convincing that the butt-kicking he is inducing now takes a toll on him too and not just his enemies. His acting is great here too, you can feel the anguish over losing his daughter and the authorities or anyone else taking him seriously. I would like to see more of this Jackie Chan in theaters. And don’t tell me to watch the remake of The Karate Kid, yes he is good in that (especially that one crying scene) but this is on a whole other level, in a better made film.
Pierce Brosnan is masterful here too. Giving his best performance to date, and his best since the underrated The Matador. I like that he had a complicated villain plot. He wasn’t necessarily the villain, but the fact that he was a terrorist in his earlier days and then gets to be in a high standing political position was disheartening. The movie plays off that and his arc is one that I truly found convincing and scary.
Some of the credit needs to go to Martin Campbell, who is one I admire greatly who has done some fantastic work, like Goldeneye and Casino Royale, but has had a few huge misfires (Green Lantern anyone)? Here, his talents as a director are brought back into the fold, very precise camera work and great takes. This goes along with hit hits for sure. But any Jackie Chan fan out there really needs to see The Foreigner. Especially those looking for a great story to go along with it. This isn’t a Rush Hour or Taken film, where it is all action and just has Jackie Chan doing a Charlie Chaplin martial arts like performance. This is bold, hard hitting, and deep. And I can’t wait to watch it again when it comes to video.
Now here is a cool, quirky Netflix film I can get behind, THE BABYSITTER, and no, not the trash that starred Alicia Silverstone in the 90s. This is the new film directed by McG, yes the Charlie’s Angel’s reboot McG, about a hot as hell babysitter and her friends dong some pretty shady shit as the kid being babysat tries to stop them. In the vein of the recent film I reviewed Better Watch Out, it is best not to watch a trailer for this film. Just start playing it and enjoy. It’s a quick 85 minute, bloody, hilarious, thrill ride with some really, really cool deaths and some great bloody practical effects. It’s also funny that it is McG’s best film as well.
What happened to McG? The Charlie’s Angels reboots were halfway decent but then he failed with Terminator Salvation and hit a nail in the coffin after This Means War. I saw a little talent in him then and thankfully, here he finally releases everything full throttle (did you get the Charlie’s Angels jokes…did you get it?) This movie is just pure fun and what will be a huge star making turn for the girl that plays the babysitter Bee, Samara Weaving (Hugo Weaving is her uncle). She is incredible in this this, her acting chops on full display and her chemistry while “babysitting” Cole is one with humor, thrills and heartbreak.
Just like my review for Better Watch Out, I am not going to explain the plot all that much. Bee has always babysat Cole, and he has a huge crush on her. One of Cole’s friends tells Cole that he should stay up this time instead of going to bed, to see if Bee has sex with her boyfriend, steals stuff, trashes the house etc. Cole decides to do it…and what he discovers is more frightening than anything he could have imagined. I explained earlier that there is some great gore practical effects and some great deaths, so you might get the sense of where the film goes. Needless to say, it is almost in the same vein as Better Watch Out, but it is actually very different.
You have other people in this that are Bee’s friends as well, such as Robbie Amell, Bella Thorne, and that weird Asian chick from Pitch Perfect. They are all hilarious and great as Bee’s friends, and I even liked Bella Thorne in this, even though I think she is very very strange in real life, the few scenes she has in this, she really shines. But everything in this film belongs to Samara Weaving. She’s incredible and worth the price of one month of Netflix alone to check this film out.
McG’s quirky direction is fully developed in this film, where it inhabits its environment and takes it to the next level as it should. The use of music in here is delightful as well, especially Queen at the end. The acting all around is almost stepping into the over-the-top category, but thanks to a good script, it calls for it, sort of like the acting in a Quentin Tarantino film. That’s it, I’m done talking. Go check out The Babysitter, you won’t regret it.
I am going to get two things right off my chest before I dive into Netflix’s THE MEYEROWITZ STORIES (NEW AND SELECTED). First off, I don’t think Adam Sandler’s performance in this is Oscar worthy at all. It is a very good performance and easily his best since Punch Drunk Love, but I do not think it is Oscar worthy as many have been buzzing it is. Secondly, I am not a huge fan of Noah Baumbach. I think he is a talented filmmaker whose films are a little too quirky for my taste, and I haven’t really liked any of his films, maybe the closest being The Squid and the Whale. This film now beats that for me as his best work, even though I still cannot quite recommend the film. And it is mainly because of the second half of the film.
I don’t dislike Noah Baumbach at all. He does have a very good ear for dialogue and some of his scenes are engaging but he uses a lot of weird quirky moments and sight gags that take me out of the film and I have trouble that they would be in this universe that he has created. There are good sight gags and bad sight gags to be sure. And by sight gags, I’ll give you an example. While I love the movie Garden State, I can’t wait the part where Zach Braff is in that bathroom and walks near those sinks and the sinks just go off as we walks toward the exit. That part made absolutely no sense, so I consider it a bad sight gag. Another sight gag is when he has on that shirt some Aunt made for him and it matches the wallpaper, that I considered a good sight gag. This film has a person running a car into a tree for absolutely no reason, people weirdly running away from things, weird student films, and a bunch of other sight gags that took me away from the family drama story it was trying to tell.
However, the sight gags didn’t ruin the movie for me, it was mainly the second act of the film when Ben Stiller shows up and Dustin Hoffman’s character goes out of the picture for a little bit. Before I get into the first and second act of the film Another thing I don’t necessarily like about Noah Baumbach’s filmmaking is that he never really gives us a totally likable character. Adam Sandler’s character in this is the closest he has gotten to date. Now I know you can’t a have perfect character without flaws, but surely there can be more likable characters with them. The first half of the film is clear and concise, and I thought I would come out of this putting it on one of my top fifteen films of the year, singing Baumbach’s praises. But then we get to the second half…
***spoiler alert*** I am going to spoil something that happens to Dustin Hoffman’s character where it made me not like the second act all the much and the event took a lot of the film away for me. So if you don’t want to know, turn back now. Halfway thru the film Dustin Hoffman’s character, one of the interesting ones, goes into a coma for the rest of the film. I think taking the father out of the picture and having the family drama dynamic happen between the two brothers and the sisters was a big mistake on Baumbach’s part. I think the father could’ve been in it and it would’ve made a more well rounded family story ***end spoiler alert*** The film is about a family whose father (Hoffman) is having a grand art exhibit of his work and selling it all off. Adam Sandler’s character and his sister have been struggling with their relationship their entire life with Hoffman’s character, and don’t want his new girlfriend/wife (played by Emma Thompson) to sell off the house and don’t want their father to sell his work. Enter the half brother (played by Ben Stiller) who is basically the person who is arranging all of this stuff to be sold. And Ben Stiller’s character is always the one that Dustin Hoffman’s was proud of, etc. etc. etc.
Like I said, the movie has a strong first half but a very weak second. I explained why it is weak in the spoiler above. But there is a little more too it. The story gets extremely cliched when the spoiler event happens, and so does the dialogue. This “you are the favorite child, you are turning into your father” merry go round has been done before and I was disappointed that the promising dialogue unique first half was followed up with this. It picks up near the very end with the art exhibit and ***spoiler alert*** Sandler’s final confrontation with Dustin Hoffman ***end spoiler*** but it was already too late for me to recommend the film completely. Noah Baumbach enthusiasts are for sure to love this movie though.
There are a couple of other sweet things, I did like Adam Sandler’s relationship with his daughter at the beginning of the film, but then she goes off to college, makes awkward movies and has a weird confrontation with Sandler at the end that really didn’t make much since. So see, this film was like a complete see-saw with me. There are good things and bad things. Sometimes I can still recommend a film with those, and sometimes I can’t. This is one of the rare cases where I just can’t. I’m sorry Noah Baumbach, you haven’t won me over yet, but you are showing promise. At least better than Paul Thomas Anderson….yikes. But not as good as Wes Anderson with the quirky stuff. I have a feeling he could get there though.