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Movie Review: The Foreigner Fits Jackie Chan into a Messy Political Thriller

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The Foreigner presents Jackie Chan in his most surprising of roles. We’ve become so used to him being the chipper and plucky martial artists, but now he’s a dour and cold-hearted man out for revenge. We’ve seen him use his extraordinary martial arts skills to subdue his attackers, but rarely to brutally murder them. Chan was always the hero, not the anti-hero. Now the master of his stunts finds himself in a film more gritty, bloody and brooding, taking on the revenging archetype from Death Wish and Taken. It’s not exactly a role that I felt Chan needed to play, but at least now we have proof he could do darker action.

What may surprise people is that despite the advertising for this movie, Chan is not the central focus of the story. He exists as an outsider and a chaotic force to a more prominent story of national security in the UK. There’s been a bombing in London, and a new form of the IRA is claiming responsibility for the carnage. England questions the former IRA member turned government official, Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan). He says he doesn’t know anything about the bombing. Ngoc Minh Quan (Jackie Chan) doesn’t believe him, having lost his teenage daughter in the blast. He wants the names of the men who killed his girl, and he’s not taking “I don’t know” for an answer. And so begins Quan’s tormenting of Liam, stalking his affairs, bombing his farms and disabling his men. Not KILL his men, but disable them. He’s saving those brutal moves for the bombers.

Most of the movie isn’t about him, however, and for a good reason. Even when Liam investigates Quan and reveals his tragic past of losing other daughters and a wife, it’s still not as exciting or stirring as the political game at play. Liam does and doesn’t know about the bombing. Somebody in the Irish government has been orchestrating this. But even that person doesn’t know who the bombers are. Or does he? The attackers are all unrelated IRA fighters operating under secret code words. Or are they? The pot keeps stirring with betrayals, alliances, reveal, affairs and power struggles. All of it is tightly written to the point where if Chan weren’t included this would be a straight political drama.

When we do get to the action, it’s a little underwhelming for what we know he is capable of. He’s at his best when in enclosed spaces where he can wedge into any opening and use anything in his environment as a weapon. There’s a great scene at a bed and breakfast where he dashes up to the roof, slides down a pole and back into the building to beat up some more bad guys in the stairwell and kitchen. He will later sneak into a flat and do more battle in the kitchen with guns and knives. But most of the movie finds him hiding out in the woods, assaulting Liam’s farm as he efficiently subdues his pursuing men. I never saw Jackie Chan as being ex-military operative hunting men in the wild, but, again, he proved he could do it.

The story is more thriller than action picture considering how Jackie will disappear for long stretches of time to heal and coordinate his next attack. Most of the film is centered on Pierce chatting on the phone, screaming at his cohorts, shooting those that fail him and trying to keep his crumbling home life in order. There’s a high pace to the proceedings, and it never lingers too long on one scene or one reveal. But you can’t help shake the notion that this should be more of a Jackie Chan vehicle. The feels more fun and engaging when he drops by, only to switch gears harshly when the plot has to keep going. When Jackie finally corners Pierce with a gun, demanding names, there’s tension in the air. Then he states that he’ll give Pierce 24 hours to get him the names and my heart sank a bit as I knew he wouldn’t be showing up for a long time.

The Foreigner does its best to make its revenge plot, and some of it works. I like the dour atmosphere, but it’s perhaps too somber for the more amusing scenes where Jackie does his stunts. Try as he might, he just can’t shake our smiles and giggles whenever he becomes a master of his environment. Cliff Martinez supplies a moody soundtrack to get you in the right mindset, but he goes a little too overboard with the synth at times where it sounds like he’s composing the soundtrack for Nicolas Winding Refn’s TRON. There’s a steady pace that always kept me interested, but there’s an unshakable unevenness I just couldn’t let go. Considering it was based on a novel called The Chinaman, Martin Campbell has retooled enough of what I assume is a typical thriller into something a little more engaging. He still stumbles, however, with a script that has every government official even calling Jackie Chan that Chinaman, so there’s still a few kinks that he could have ironed out.

[author title=”About the Author” image=”http://popstermedia.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/mark_mcpherson-300×221-150×150.jpg”]Movie Reviewer Mark McPherson has been all about movies since working at a video store in his youth. His talents range from video editing to animation to web development, but movies have always been his passion to write about.[/author]

Box Office

“Captain Marvel” Retains Top Slot at the Box Office

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It’s no surprise that in its second weekend, the first Marvel Cinematic Universe of 2019 is still riding high. Captain Marvel, the latest in the MCU with Brie Larson starring as the lead, generated another $69 million over the weekend, placing its domestic total at $266 million. Tallying up the international box office, the film’s global total to date is $760 million. Despite the online controversy, the film is looking to be another strong box office smash for Disney and Marvel.

As for the premieres for the weekend, and there were plenty, they were all over the map. Just below Captain Marvel was the animated adventure Wonder Park, bringing in $16 million, another film with controversy when the director’s name was removed from the picture after sexual harassment charges. Five Feet Apart, the dying teen drama about a romance amid cystic fibrosis, only came in at #3 with a weekend gross of $13 million. And debuting the lowest in the top 10 for debuts was Captive State, a sci-fi dystopian tale, only making $3 million. The film debuted so low the little film No Manches Frida 2 was able to sneak about it at #6 with a gross of $3.8 million.

Drops were fairly low all around for the returning films, mostly because Captain Marvel was dominating the previous weekend. The only milestone worth noting is that The LEGO Movie 2, after six weeks at the box office, finally cracked $100 million. And the sun is now setting on Green Book’s post-Oscar run by coming in at #10 for the final weekend of its top 10 run over the past few weeks.

View the full top ten weekend box office results below:

Captain Marvel ($69,318,000)

Wonder Park ($16,000,000)

Five Feet Apart ($13,150,000)

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($9,345,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($8,085,000)

No Manches Frida 2 ($3,894,000)

Captive State ($3,163,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($2,135,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($1,900,000)

Green Book ($1,277,000)

Next weekend, Captain Marvel may very well have some competition when Jordan Peele’s new horror film Us hits over 3,600 theaters.

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“Dragon” Continues To Soar, “Funeral” Close Behind, “Green Book” Back

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With little competition for the weekend, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, the third in the animated fantasy saga, was able to secure the box office once more. In its second weekend, the animated epic made $30 million to push its domestic total to $97 million. So far the film has done about the same as the previous film and is on track to stay in the top 10 for a few more weeks in March.

Debuts this weekend were small with one big exception. Tyler Perry’s latest Madea film, A Madea Family Funeral, naturally made a relatively big splash with its dedicated audience. Starting at #2, the film made $27 million for its first weekend. No word on the budget yet but it’s most likely on a budget as most Tyler Perry productions are, so it’s safe to call this a success, especially for debuting with a box office so close to Dragon.

The rest of the premieres were not as strong at all. Greta, the new thriller starring Chloe Moretz, debuted all the way down at #8 with $4.5 million box office. To be fair, however, the film was in a constant battle for its spot as three other films also reported earnings around $4 million for the weekend. Of note, Green Book, fresh off winning the Academy Award for Best Picture one weekend ago, splashed back into more theaters to arise even higher in the top 10 with its domestic total now sitting at $73 million. Don’t count on it remaining there long as bigger blockbusters will be swooping as we plow through the last remnants of winter movies.

Check out the full listing of the top 10 box office weekend results below:

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($30,046,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($27,050,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($7,000,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($6,615,000)

Green Book ($4,711,000)

Fighting With My Family ($4,691,284)

Isn’t it Romantic ($4,645,000)

Greta ($4,585,000)

What Men Want ($2,700,000)

Happy Death Day 2U ($2,516,000)

Next weekend is once again all about Marvel as their latest superhero solo film, Captain Marvel, will be appearing in 4,100 theaters.

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Review: “Captain Marvel” is a Solidly Sensational Sci-Fi Adventure

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Captain Marvel joins the ranks of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a much different way. She slides into the MCU via a twisty sci-fi adventure of the 1990s, before the Avengers were formed. And though the film does serve as a strong bridge picture that answers a few more questions about the Marvel universe, the film quickly becomes its own thing and gives its hero a real identity as the powerful addition to the superhero ensemble.

Brie Larson plays Carol Danvers, a woman not sure if she’s a human pilot of Earth or a soldier of the Kree empire’s Starforce. There’s little time to explore these conflicting visions she’s having when there’s special energy powers to control and a war being waged against the shape-shifting Skrull alien creatures. A detour to 1990s Earth gives her a bit of time to find out more while also hunting down some more Skrulls, leading to some interesting scenarios when combatting aliens that could look like old ladies.

Marvel Studios’ CAPTAIN MARVEL..Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) ..Photo: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2019

Carol’s landing on Earth leads to treading down familiar Marvel timeline territory as well as evoking plenty of dated 1990s bits. What started drawing me into the picture was how the film holds itself back from the obvious. The 1990s setting is used for some gags of video stores and Windows 95, sure, but never goes the extra mile of becoming an aggravating reference fest, keeping a certain vibe the way Guardians of the Galaxy embraced the 1970s and 1980s. And just like that film, there’s a nostalgic soundtrack to boot, with choice tracks for just the right cue.

Samuel L. Jackson pops up in the film as a younger Nick Fury with his two eyes still intact. He teams up with Carol in her intergalactic spy adventure and thankfully never goes to the booming lengths he was known for that decade. And the filmmakers could have easily made this younger Fury go full Die Hard 3 or Pulp Fiction but he never does, always keeping that cool persona he has been known for in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Marvel Studios’ CAPTAIN MARVEL..L to R: Att-Lass (Algenis Perez Soto), Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) and Minn-Erva (Gemma Chan)..Photo: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2019

But the one aspect that is never shunned and built up grandly is the aspect of female empowerment. Danvers is established as a woman who doesn’t have a clear identity or mindful nature of galactic politics and has to build herself up when she realizes she may be a very powerful pawn in a big game of intergalactic chess. Her memories are that of always being told to back off from non-traditional activities for girls and, sure enough, she rises up to become the smirking and energy-shooting hero when the final piece of her character puzzle is pieced together. It’s just unfortunate that the film spends so much time doing the building amid a twisty sci-fi spy story that Brie never gets a moment to shine as brightly as she could, despite a very enthusiastic third-act closer.

If we’re being blunt, no, Captain Marvel doesn’t quite have the same gravity to be a cultural milestone of a comic book movie. Where others have pointed to Black Panther as not the first the most insightful and cultural of black-led superhero movies, I doubt many will look towards Captain Marvel as the grandest of female-led comic book movies, making its motives known with the power and subtlety of a supernova. But, in terms of what the film is aiming towards, it doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone and that’s perhaps the point. I just wish that Captain Marvel’s astounding powers to destroy starships and aliens had a much bigger punch for a picture that wants to obliterate the glass ceiling and merely cuts a narrow hole within the MCU. It’s a nice hole, mind you, and still weaves a capable and compelling sci-fi adventure with a surprisingly more engaging finale than most Marvel solos.

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