Chan on un­fa­mil­iar ground in The For­eigner

Toronto Star - - ENTERTAINMENT -

The For­eigner (out of 4) Star­ring Jackie Chan, Pierce Bros­nan. Di­rected by Martin Camp­bell. Opened Oct. 12 at GTA the­atres. 114 min­utes. R

Jackie Chan ap­pears to have wan­dered into the wrong movie.

Cer­tainly his lat­est role, as the hum­ble owner of the Happy Pea­cock Chi­nese res­tau­rant turned aveng­ing an­gel af­ter the death of his daugh­ter, is a big de­par­ture for an ac­tor whose ca­reer has con­sisted of play­ing ge­nial Joes with a knack for well-chore­ographed chop-socky ac­tion.

Chan has al­ways had a Chap­linesque qual­ity, a sad clown of sorts, but here, as os­ten­si­ble pro­tag­o­nist Quan Ngoc Minh, there’s not much op­por­tu­nity for his imp­ish trade­mark grin. No, his vis­age ex­presses mostly deep sor­row (past and present) and grim de­ter­mi­na­tion.

Mean­while, big things are hap­pen­ing all around Quan as a group call­ing it­self the Au­then­tic IRA launches a se­ries of bomb­ings around Lon­don, spark­ing a man­hunt by the Metropoli­tan Po­lice anti-ter­ror­ism unit SO15, and un­cov­er­ing a web of treach­ery and lies among Ir­ish na­tion­al­ists. In many ways, the guy ev­ery­one else refers to offhand­edly as “the Chi­na­man” is both in over his head and a rather pe­riph­eral player in the con­flict rag­ing around him.

The script by David Mar­coni ( En­emy of the State) is dense and com­plex and even rel­a­tively plau­si­ble.

Once the first bomb goes off — killing Quan’s daugh­ter among oth­ers — pres­sure by Bri­tish au­thor­i­ties mounts on Liam Hen­nessy, deputy min­is­ter for North­ern Ire­land af­fairs, to get to the bot­tom of things. Quan fix­ates on Hen­nessy (Pierce Bros­nan) and be­gins to stalk him rather ef­fec­tively.

Chan is well known for do­ing his own fight scenes and stunts but he’s no longer a young fella, which makes the in­ven­tive ac­ro­bat­ics that en­sue when­ever he en­coun­ters trou­ble even more impressive than usual.

Bros­nan ac­tu­ally does most of the heavy lift­ing as the in­tri­cate plot un­folds and he’s quite good as Hen­nessy, a se­nior govern­ment man­darin liv­ing la dolce vita whose life­time of high-wire in­trigu­ing comes back to bite him on the ass.

Au­di­ences will face a chal­lenge in keep­ing up with a mul­ti­tude of char­ac­ters and a sinewy plot that con­tains quite a few sur­prises.

Di­rec­tor Martin Camp­bell, whose ca­reer is a mixed bag — a big yes for Casino Royale (2006), a big whatwere-you-think­ing? for Green Lantern (2011) — is more than ca­pa­ble of or­ches­trat­ing some great ac­tion scenes while keep­ing the com­plex sto­ry­line on track.

So while The For­eigner doesn’t get much by way of rich, tex­tured per­for­mance from Chan, he re­mains a like­able every­man hero type that the au­di­ence roots for as he nav­i­gates his world through a labyrinth of vi­o­lence and be­trayal. Bruce DeMara

Good­bye Christo­pher Robin (out of 4) Star­ring Domh­nall Glee­son, Margot Rob­bie. Di­rected by Si­mon Curtis. Opens Fri­day at Cine­plex Odeon Var­sity. 107 min­utes. PG

War is hell, es­pe­cially the War to End All Wars, which, of course, it wasn’t be­cause the Sec­ond World War fol­lowed a mere 21 years later, both of which act as book ends for Good­bye Christo­pher Robin.

It tells the story of A.A. (Alan) Milne, who’s deep psy­chic wounds from the war even­tu­ally lead him to cre­ate beloved Win­nie the Pooh and his sto­ry­book friends in the Hun­dred Acre Wood.

The story opens with a tele­gram an­nounc­ing son Christo­pher, who has gone off to fight against his fa­ther’s wishes, is miss­ing in ac­tion and pre­sumed dead. Then it’s back to the be­gin­ning, with Milne en­sconc­ing him­self in the Sus­sex coun­try­side with a wife who prefers Lon­don and son Christo­pher.

But Win­nie the Pooh be­comes such an in­ter­na­tional sen­sa­tion, it turns young Christo­pher into a me­dia star, en­dan­ger­ing the frag­ile bonds between fa­ther and son.

The per­for­mances are fine, es­pe­cially an en­dear­ing Will Til­ston as young Christo­pher.

Although a de­cent enough film touch­ing on im­por­tant themes, its emo­tional res­o­nance falls a lit­tle short of sat­is­fy­ing. BD

Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House (out of 4) Star­ring Liam Nee­son, Diane Lane and Mar­ton Csokas. Writ­ten and di­rected by Peter Lan­des­man. Opens Fri­day at Cine­plex Yonge-Dun­das. 103 min­utes. PG

The furtive fig­ure his­tory knows best as Water­gate snitch Deep Throat gets a movie treat­ment more suited to the printed page than the big screen.

Liam Nee­son is ide­ally cast as the right­eous Mark Felt, a deputy un­der FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover and also the heir ap­par­ent when Hoover dies in 1972.

A ca­reer G-man, Felt is ad­mired by many as a gent of hon­our and prin­ci­ple, even if he has been party to some of the bu­reau’s breaches of civil lib­er­ties and de­spite frosty re­la­tions with his un­happy wife (Diane Lane).

But skul­dug­gery within the Nixon White House, driven to cri­sis mode by the Wash­ing­ton Post’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the Water­gate break-in weeks af­ter Hoover’s demise, robs Felt of the pro­mo­tion he ex­pected and he turns sub­ter­ranean squealer. Is it re­venge or de­fence of Amer­i­can lib­er­ties? Writer/di­rec­tor Peter Lan­des­man ( Park­land), lethar­gi­cally adapt­ing Felt’s mem­oirs, seems more in­ter­ested in petty bick­er­ing than ex­plor­ing the com­pli­cated mind be­hind the white hair and gran­ite vis­age. Water­gate jour­nal­ists Wood­ward and Bern­stein are bizarrely bit play­ers in this tor­pid tale. Peter How­ell

BPM (Beats Per Minute) (out of 4) Star­ring Nahuel Perez Bis­ca­yart, Ar­naud Valois, Adele Haenel, Felix Mar­i­taud and An­toine Reinartz. Writ­ten and di­rected by Robin Campillo. Opens Fri­day at TIFF Bell Light­box. 143 min­utes. 18A

This Cannes 2017 Grand Prix drama is both in­ti­mately shot and his­tor­i­cally aware, draw­ing from di­rec­tor Robin Campillo’s past as an AIDS ac­tivist in the 1990s. The film finds the hu­man­ity be­hind the head­lines.

Fans of Campillo’s pre­vi­ous writ­ing will ap­pre­ci­ate BPM’s en­er­getic di­a­logue and op­ti­mistic verve, de­spite be­ing set in a dan­ger­ous time be­fore the ad­vent of pro­tease in­hibitors, when an HIV/AIDS di­ag­no­sis was a pre­lude to a fast death.

Much of the nar­ra­tive con­cerns the in­creas­ingly rowdy ef­forts by the Paris chap­ter of the ACT UP protest group, of which Campillo was once a mem­ber, to gain pub­lic recog­ni­tion and also ac­tion by gov­ern­ments, cor­po­ra­tions and sci­en­tists to ad­dress the AIDS cri­sis. Among the many char­ac­ters, Ar­naud Valois’ re­ac­tive Nathan and Nahuel Perez Bis­ca­yart’s flinty Sean make the deep­est im­pres­sion as lovers strug­gling to cope with a life not of their choos­ing.

Those un­fa­mil­iar with the Moroc­can-born film­maker’s close-quar­ters style, as seen in such pre­vi­ous works as East­ern Boys, may find the ric­o­chet of words too repet­i­tive to feel com­pelling. But the film is a valu­able and heart­felt doc­u­ment nonethe­less. PH

78/52 (out of 4) Doc­u­men­tary on the mean­ing and in­flu­ence of the shower scene in Al­fred Hitch­cock’s Psy­cho. Di­rected by Alexan­dre O. Philippe. Opens Fri­day at TIFF Bell Light­box. 91 min­utes. PG

The Bates Mo­tel shower mur­der scene of Janet Leigh’s fugi­tive Marion Crane lasts just three min­utes in Al­fred Hitch­cock’s 1960 hor­ror Psy­cho, but the slash marks on the col­lec­tive un­con­scious have en­dured for decades. Doc­u­men­tar­ian Alexan­dre O. Philippe ( The Peo­ple vs. Ge­orge Lu­cas) goes deep in ex­am­in­ing how the 78 cam­era set-ups and 52 ed­its of this scene (hence the ti­tle), com­bined to make th­ese mem­o­rably macabre min­utes per­haps sec­ond only to the Zapruder film of JFK’s as­sas­si­na­tion as the mostscru­ti­nized piece of cel­lu­loid ever.

It for­ever changed movies with its taboo-break­ing voyeurism and ni­hilis­tic vi­o­lence, driven to fever pitch by Bernard Herrmann’s much-imi­tated score. Stare through the peep­hole at ter­ror that can’t be scrubbed away, in the fas­ci­nat­ing com­pany of such hardcore geeks as di­rec­tors Guillermo del Toro, Peter Bog­danovich and Eli Roth, film edi­tor Wal­ter Murch, Amer­i­can Psy­cho au­thor Brett Eas­ton Ellis, Leigh’s scream-queen daugh­ter Jamie Lee Curtis, An­thony Perkins’ son Os­good Perkins and Hitch’s grand­daugh­ter Tere Car­rubba. Es­sen­tial view­ing, even if you have to watch through your fin­gers. PH


Jackie Chan’s role in The For­eigner is a big de­par­ture for an ac­tor whose ca­reer has con­sisted of play­ing ge­nial Joes with a knack for chop-socky ac­tion.

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