by Rob DiCristino
The Foreigner (2017, Dir. Martin Campbell)
Casino Royale in 2006. Re-teaming with his other Bond, GoldenEye’s Pierce Brosnan (cast against type as a sleazy and conniving villain) and recruiting martial arts legend Jackie Chan (cast against type as a desperate and grieving father), Campbell delivers a slick and earnest adaptation of Stephen Leather’s 1992 novel The Chinaman that never quite manages to get off the ground. It’s not that The Foreigner is messy or unfocused in the traditional sense; it’s that it seems bored by the would-be potboiler yarn it’s been tasked with spinning and decides to lay said yarn flat on the ground and take a nap, instead, ultimately delivering its narrative with all the zest and enthusiasm of your local FedEx driver. Despite all the complex political intrigue, The Foreigner never asks any more from its audience than a reasonable amount of its polite attention.
When an IRA splinter group takes credit for a deadly bombing in central London, Northern Ireland’s deputy First Minister Liam Hennessy (Brosnan), himself a former IRA operative, is tasked by Her Majesty’s government with bringing the killers to justice. He works with old cronies and compatriots behind closed doors to get rabble-rousers in line while maintaining a strong public face condemning the tragedy. That face doesn’t fool Chinese Nuang immigrant Ngoc Minh Quan (Chan), however; the Special Forces operative-turned family man knows there’s more to Hennessy than he’s letting on, and he’ll stop at nothing to avenge the daughter he lost in the explosion. If you’re angry at me for spoiling the fact that the humble Chinese restaurant proprietor was once a killer, I should remind you that he’s played by Jackie Chan, the 63-year-old action legend who can still absolutely Get It. Quan’s relentless hunt for for the bombers’ identities (which he punctuates with his own series of bombs and traps) drives Hennessy into hiding while the latter man’s ever-shrinking circle of allies threaten to expose his deceits.
Geostorm (2017, Dir. Dean Devlin)
Cheap! It would look really cheap! And though there’s no reason to expect the directorial debut of ‘90s mega-producer Dean Devlin (Independence Day, Godzilla ’98) to be anything but a schlock buffet, Geostorm finds a way to be profoundly bad and endearingly weird at the same time. That could be the bonkers script, co-written with Devlin by TV veteran Paul Guyot. It could be the notorious reshoots, helmed by director Danny Cannon and writer Laeta Kalogridis. It could be the clumsy environmentalist message delivered by Talitha Bateman as Hannah, the Precocious Child from a Shane Black movie. Really, though, it’s that Geostorm is simply a B science fiction movie on a blockbuster scale, a goofy and incompetent mess of meaningless explosions and hurried ADR that has just enough charisma to be fun. In the classic tradition of 1950s sci-fi, Geostorm’s characters spend most of their time standing in circles, pounding their fists on desks and watching a clock tick ominously toward a disaster that the film can’t really afford to show us. If that’s your bag, then welcome home.
In the year 2019, Gerald Butler and his team of international space climatologists have built a complex web of satellites around the Earth (colloquially called “Dutch Boy,” after the kid who stuck his finger in the dam to stop the flood) to shield us from the weather disasters brought on by climate change. Though is work is revolutionary and completely fail-proof, Butler is fired for reckless insubordination and replaced by his little brother, Jim Sturgess (Across the Universe, Cloud Atlas). Sturgess, who is having a secret romance with Secret Service Agent Abbie Cornish (Sucker Punch), is supervising the U.S.’s handover of Dutch Boy to an international council on the eve of President Andy Garcia’s re-election. But when a small village in Afghanistan is found inexplicably frozen solid and a scientist with damning evidence is mysteriously killed, Secretary of State Ed Harris commissions Sturgess to find the flaw in Dutch Boy and save the day. Guess who Sturgess chooses to lead the investigation?
Man of Steel. He’s fine. Geostorm is fine. Ed Harris has a rocket launcher at one point, and Cornish kicks some ass in a pantsuit. What more do you want?