This Is a Movie Review: It’s Chan vs. Brosnan in Revenge Thriller ‘The Foreigner’

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This review was originally posted on News Cult in October 2017.

The Foreigner – It’s Chan vs. Brosnan in Revenge Thriller ‘The Foreigner’

Starring: Jackie Chan, Pierce Brosnan

Director: Martin Campbell

Running Time: 113 Minutes

Rating: R for Frequent Explosions, Booby-Trap Puncture Wounds, and a Bit of Scheme-Based Shagging

Release Date: October 13, 2017

At age 63, Jackie Chan is still allowed to shimmy down roofs, walls, and pipes. And good for him, because while what he pulls off stunt-wise in The Foreigner is nowhere near as relentless as his early films, his twists, spins, and rolls still look like the most natural things in the world for him to be doing. But this revenge thriller places a new skill at the top of Chan’s repertoire: survivalism. As a meek London business businessman, Ngoc Minh Quan’s (Chan) knack for springing camouflaged traps with tree branches and leaves is in the key of a doomsday prepper, but actually they represent the horrors of a native land he would rather forget but will summon if he has to.

Quan’s journey for vengeance is set off by a bomb that detonates in a busy street, killing his daughter Fan (Katie Leung, aka Cho Chang from Harry Potter). But he has had the capacity for a long time to go off on a one-man spree to make terrorists pay. He was a trained killer in his home country (it is a little confusing whether Quan is supposed to be Vietnamese, or ethnically Chinese but born in Vietnam, or something else) who sought a more peaceful life by moving to England, but lost two of his children along the way. To further ramp up the tragic backstory, his wife died while giving birth to Fan. So when Fan dies, it is the classic revenge setup of the man who has nothing left to lose. The Foreigner does not add much to this genre, save for Chan’s heavily haunted performance, his eyelids and hair permanently weighed down by the debris of the blast.

Those responsible for the bombing are certain members of the IRA attempting to stir up trouble, which Quan does not much care about, but the film certainly does. There is a sense of a bigger conflict swallowing up a few small people, similar to Edge of Darkness, director Martin Campbell’s last entry in the revenge field. But where that earlier film had an easily identifiable conspiracy hook, The Foreigner’s political conflicts are much more convoluted. For the uninitiated, it is hard to make heads or tails of what the IRA’s issues with the UK are, and why they should be flaring up now. That confusion is papered over a bit by the compelling presence of Pierce Brosnan as government official Liam Hennessy, whose association with the IRA may not be as reformed as he would like to pretend. The cat-and-mouse struggle between Chan and Brosnan is a high-quality white-knuckle battle between two vets who know exactly what they’re doing. But they are surrounded by a hodgepodge of other goings-on that do not come together for a clear message or purpose.

The Foreigner is Recommended If You Like: Apocalypse Prepping, Rambo, Edge of Darkness

Grade: 3 out of 5 Tree Branch Traps

This Is a Movie Review: ‘The Lego Ninjago Movie’ is Stupidly the Best Father-Son Bonding Movie in Ages

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CREDIT: Warner Bros.

This post was originally published on News Cult in September 2017.

Starring: Dave Franco, Justin Theroux, Olivia Munn, Jackie Chan, Fred Armisen, Abbi Jacobson, Kumail Nanjiani, Michael Peña, Zach Woods

Directors: Charlie Bean, Paul Fisher, and Bob Logan

Running Time: 101 Minutes

Rating: PG for Ripped-Off Lego Limbs and Feline-on-Toy Destruction

Release Date: September 22, 2017

If you want to learn how to nail down comic timing, you could do much worse than studying the repartee in The Lego Ninjago Movie. This second spin-off of the toy block film franchise and the first based on the speciality Ninjago line (which also already has its own long-running Cartoon Network TV show) should ostensibly be the most action-oriented of the series, but its cast ensures that it is instead defined by the cheeky humor that has buoyed each of the Lego films thus far. The voices of the high school-age core ninja group include improv and sketch veterans like Fred Armisen, Abbi Jacobson, Kumail Nanjiani, and Zach Woods. And their leader, Master Wu, is brought to life by the always comedically inclined martial arts legend Jackie Chan. As they protect their home city of Ninjago and seek to become one with the elements, they pop off quips like “Can I be the element of surprise?” and display their meta bona fides by complaining about Wu’s “needlessly cryptic metaphors.”

The thrust of the plot mostly revolves around Green Ninja Lloyd (Dave Franco) and his struggle against his father Lord Garmadon (Justin Theroux), a four-armed warlord seeking to conquer Ninjago who keeps mispronouncing (or correctly pronouncing?) his son’s name as “L-loyd.” Lloyd’s attempts to reconcile with the father who abandoned and forgot about him make for the dopily cliché stuff of legend. This is the same evil-father/chosen-one-son knockoff typical of so many Star Wars copycats. But of course, that dopiness is the point. In a world where love stories begin by opponents in war detecting unbearable beauty on opposite sides of the battlefield and the biggest hit on the radio is the weirdly personal “Boo Lloyd!,” fully embracing clichés only makes sense.

For those of you wondering how the real world intervenes in the block world this time around, it should be noted that there is a cute kitty cat who stomps around the town. Dubbed “Meowthra,” this feline is the secondary villain, the monster that indiscriminately and unknowingly ruins intricately designed block structures.

Where Ninjago falters is in its actions sequences. To be fair, its earthbound fighting moments have plenty of visual wit, but when the ninjas take to the skies, the aerial sequences are as unintelligible as the Transformers series at its worst. But that will only be a minor bother when you make it through to the end credits and fall in love with the latest buoyantly terrific song from a Lego movie.

The Lego Ninjago Movie is Recommended If You Like: Lego’s entire filmography, Star Wars father-son relationship parodies, Silicon Valley, Finding the humor in “Cat’s in the Cradle”

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Ninjanuities