By: Matt Brunson
The primary poster for The Foreigner (two and a half stars) shows Jackie Chan standing alone in a scene of carnage, with the tagline intoning that one should “Never Push A Good Man Too Far.” Such a promotional angle suggests that Chan will employ his considerable martial arts skills to take down various evildoers a la Taken or Death Wish. This is accurate — to a point. But look at the poster more closely and it becomes clear that this isn’t a solo vehicle for Chan, not with Pierce Brosnan sharing above-the-title billing. As for the movie itself, it’s far from a straightforward action romp — instead, it’s a knotty political thriller involving a terrorist outfit with possible IRA ties embarking on a series of bombings.
The scene of mass destruction that opens the picture ends up killing the college-age daughter of Quan (Chan), a restaurateur who had already lost his wife and other daughters to senseless violence long ago. A devastated Quan wants to make sure those responsible are punished, and so he begins harassing Liam Hennessy (Brosnan), a former IRA member who now works with the British government. Quan is convinced that Hennessy knows the identities of the terrorists — for his part, Hennessy must track down these murderers while also assigning his subordinates to deal with a surprisingly efficient Quan.
It’s interesting to see Chan stripped of the cheeky charisma that has floated most of his career, even if the movie doesn’t give him much to do beyond scowling, grimacing and occasionally throwing a punch. Chan often feels like a visitor in his own film, since the majority concerns itself with the maneuverings and machinations of Brosnan’s character to appease those wanting answers and those seeking power. The script attempts some plot pirouettes that don’t always flow gracefully, and one’s tolerance regarding the wholesale slaughter of innocents in disposable entertainment may understandably be more pronounced than ever. Yet overall, The Foreigner proves to be a respectable example of a thinking person’s action flick.
Groundhog Day gets run through the grinder in Happy Death Day (two and a half stars), a horror yarn that derives a fair amount of mileage out of its canny premise.
Set on a college campus, Happy Death Day centers on Tree (Jessica Rothe), a sorority girl who gets murdered on her birthday. But death isn’t the end for Tree– like Bill Murray’s weatherman, she wakes up again on the same day, and she soon realizes that she will keep dying (and keep repeating the day) until she identifies her killer.
After the excellent Edge of Tomorrow, any movie sporting a similar premise is bound to look anemic, and Happy Death Day certainly doesn’t hold up to much post-viewing scrutiny. But as it unfolds, it’s entertaining enough, bolstered by at least one clever fake-out, a strong central performance by Rothe, and the striking employment of a cherubic mask that — if the movie’s a hit — might end up being sported by numerous wise guys come All Hallows’ Eve.