The Foreigner


Viewed – 02 January 2018  Netflix

I used to be, and probably still am a big fan of Jackie Chan, and have at one time or another seen a great deal of his back catalogue.  In subsequent years I’ll admit he’s gone off my radar even though I realise he still makes movies.  Yet this latest caught my eye as it had been granted a cinema release at one stage and good word of mouth.  Chan plays Quan, a local Chinese restaurant owner living in London who unfortunately witnesses a bombing outside a shop where his daughter goes, leading to her death.  Vowing to track down those responsible, he soon latches onto Liam Hennessey (Pierce Brosnan) who’s former links to the IRA may prove invaluable.

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You could call it Chan’s version of all those copy-cat Liam Neeson thrillers we’ve seen of late and has echoes of Taken.  Chan may not be the most compelling of actors and his grasp of English is still hit and miss … but he’s a likeable presence and well, can still kick ass and defy gravity even in his sixties.  Pierce Brosnan however steals the show as a not so subtle take of former Sin Fein leader Gerry Adams, and his spot-on Northern Ireland accent brings a level of authenticity to proceedings.  Also it was interesting having the backdrop of the IRA troubles and director Martin Campbell (Golden Eye) delivers a realistic and thrilling movie with plenty of action and intrigue.

I’s a shame then that really, it hasn’t much going for it we haven’t seen dozens of times before.  It’s engaging and mostly well acted especially from Brosnan, but it’s sense of deja-vu mares what is otherwise a solid thriller, and one certainly more convincing and gritty that I’d normally expect from Chan.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

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Ten from another place


Thought I would express on here my love of foreign cinema, and although I don’t get to watch as much as I would like, there have been some real gems over the years.  It is sad whenever I mention foreign (or world) cinema to anyone who isn’t exactly a cinefile, they immediately say ‘Is it subtitled?’ to which my answer is normally ‘yes’ and their reaction is to be instantly put off.  It makes me sad.  However if such things don’t bother you all that much, then the list below has some good titles to check out…

Tell No One

tell no one

Based on the novel by Harlan Coben this mystery thriller follows the story of a Doctor mourning the death of his wife, who one day contacts him via email.  A great cat and mouse whodunit with ruthless villains and a storyline that keeps you guessing to the end.  A great on foot chase and superb use of U2’s ‘With Or Without You’.

Chung-king Express

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Discovered this during my ‘have to watch everything Hong Kong related’ phase back in the 90’s.  Yet in complete contrast to the John Woo action movies I had become addicted to, this was a sweet love story about different people and how their lives have an effect on one another.  Beautifully filmed by cinematographer Christopher Doyle to clever, multi-layered direction by Wong Kar Wai.

Howl’s Moving Castle

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Hayao Miyazaki … surely no need for explanation here.  I think this magical, highly imaginative fantasy based on the children’s book by Diana Wynne Jones and with glorious hand-drawn animation … is a joy.  I may even go as far as saying it’s my favourite Studio Ghibli movie, with a little less Japanese oddness compared to the more famed Spirited Away.

[REC]

[rec]

Stop reading this if you have seen the lacklustre remake ‘Quarantine’ starring that woman out of Dexter … this is a majorly scary, hand-held camera / found footage horror in the style of The Blair Witch Project but so much better.  Superb, fast-paced direction from Jaume Balagueró & Paco Plaza – the sequel is pretty awesome too.

Sympathy For Mr Vengeance

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The second movie I had seen by acclaimed director Park Chan-wook (Oldboy, Stoker), and making up the first part of his famed ‘vengeance trilogy’.  This harrowing tale of human organ trafficking, revenge and a deaf & dumb protagonist trying to save the life of his ill sister, is raw, very violent and powerful.  Made me think a lot afterwards about right and wrong etc.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

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Kind of an obvious one and in my opinion superior to the recent remake and also its two sequels.  A mystery involving a missing woman, a cool computer hacker with a troubled past and a disgraced journalist.  Excellent, career making turn from the wonderful Noomi Rapace.

Let The Right One In

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Based on the controversial novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist and with superb, understated direction from Tomas Alfredson (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), another that is superior to the remake and with a touching love story at it’s heart between two lost souls.  One of the finest horror movies of the last decade.

The Killer

the killer

The movie that put famed action director John Woo on the map.  Chow Yun Fat as a charming hitman who accidentally blinds a singer in a club during a hit.  Danny Lee is the tough cop out to catch him but discovers more than he expected.  Superb action sequences with Woo’s trademark slow-motion gunplay, and a touching story of guilt and redemption that went on to shape much of Woo’s career.

Betty Blue

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One of my all time favourite foreign movies.  A tale of free-spirited Betty and her struggling-writer boyfriend during a wild road trip.  It’s French, its full of sex and nudity and became a cult favourite during the late eighties.  Béatrice Dalle is magnificent and extremely sexy in the lead role.

Pan’s Labyrinth

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Guilermo Del Toro may be more known overseas as the man behind the Hellboy movies, but on his own turf he makes intelligent, often hauntingly beautiful movies most notably this acclaimed fantasy that crosses real world horrors of civil war with the imaginary world of a girl’s imagination.  Beautiful imagery, great special effects and strong performances makes this a true classic.

If you’re one of the crowd that just don’t do movies in a foreign language, can’t abide subtitles etc … I really urge you to give at least one of the titles above a day in court.  World Cinema can be braver, more daring and just as well made as anything from the states.

Those more than familiar with these types of movies … what are some of your favourites?  Any recommendations?  Leave your comments below…

Dream Home


Viewed – 28  August 2012  DVD

This Hong Kong drama follows a struggling woman attempting to own her ‘dream home’ whilst also caring for her sick father and holding down two jobs.  In the current climate, homes in Hong Kong have sky-rocketed, and affording her ideal place is not going to come easy.  So what does this young, fresh-faced woman choose to do about it?  How about murdering her would-be neighbours??

This is not your normal tale of single girl makes it big in the city, falls for the nice guy and lives happily ever after.  Oh no, this one offers violence of the highest degree, featuring scenes of absolute brutal mayhem (death by bong, anyone?).  Yes, it’s not at all believable, and its pretty hard to even approach sympathy for this woman who is clearly a psychotic nutcase … but what viewers of this sort of movie will be hoping for is elaborate gory deaths, buckets of blood and probably a bit of nudity thrown in for good measure.  Well lets me just say, you have all that and more!

Directed with a fair amount of skill by Ho-Cheung Pang  and with a rather startling central turn by Josie Ho, I went to into this with my eyes open, expecting something mad and gruesome, and I got it.  However, what I wasn’t expecting was quite a cleverly told story, with a narrative that jumps back and forth from present day to the past, only letting the viewer see the full picture as the movie drew to a close.  Although this was often nasty (the deaths, whilst imaginative are quite cruel and drawn out) I have to applaud the writers for not taking the straight forward approach and at least keeping me guessing.

A thoroughly trashy, but fun nights viewing – if you have the stomach for it!

Verdict:  3 /5

Dragon Tiger Gate


Viewed – 24 April 2011  Blu-ray

Two brothers in the Hong Kong / Triad underworld are forced to bury their differences when a ruthless gang boss rages war.  Kung Fu legend Donnie Yen plays Dragon, the lead henchman of the White Lions gang, and newcomer Nicholas Tse plays Tiger Wong, part of the much respected Tiger Gate training academy.

The story is thin at best, with bland characters and very little depth.  Yet we’re not here for deep messages and meaning – we’re here to see Donnie Yen and Nicholas Tse kick ass … and does this one deliver!  Director Wilson Yip’s movie is awash with colour, special effects and jaw dropping action, that although ridiculous and fantastical compared to Yen’s much acclaimed Ip Man movies, still packs a helluva punch.   Naturally a compelling story would have gone a long way to caring for these characters, and with well used kung fu movie clichés such as rival fighting schools and silly sounding martial arts styles, this severely lacks anything to sink your teeth into beyond the admittedly beautiful visuals.  Yen remains one of the finest action stars around though, and also choreographs the action brilliantly, even if subtlety and restraint go out of the window.  Nicholas Tse, one of a group of good looking Asian stars more famous for being pop stars than martial artists, delivers a great physical performance and carries the movie well, aided by a nunchuku wielding Shawn Yue, sporting a frightful grey wig, and a likable Dong Jie as a gang boss’ daughter.

So by all means check this out.  It’s packed with action and style, but the limited story and wafer thin characterisation may leave you cold.

Verdict:  3 /5

Ip Man 2


Viewed – 19 March 2011  Blu-ray

Martial arts superstar Donnie Yen reprises his role as legendary kung fu master Ip Man, the fabled mentor of Bruce Lee in this much-anticipated sequel.  Following Man’s migration to Hong Kong in 1949, living in poverty and unable to afford the rent, he attempts to open a martial arts school to teach the local youths his Wing Chun fighting style.  Yet this soon attracts the attention of other martial schools, most notably that of gang leader Hong Zhen Nan (Sammo Hung), who is working with corrupt British officials to stage a boxing tournament.

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