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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Dermot Crowley

The Foreigner (2017)

Who needs a green card when you can kick every citizen’s ass?

Quan (Jackie Chan) is a humble and quiet British citizen who keeps to himself. Mostly it’s due to the fact that he’s lived such a hard life already, he wants to live out his remaining years in total peace and harmony. That all changes, however, when his daughter is killed in a near-by explosion, supposedly set-up as a terrorist attack that wasn’t meant to be as devastating as it was. Quan’s not happy about this, obviously, so he decides to set out and find answers anyway and anywhere that he can, by any means necessary. His trail of tears leads him to Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan), a former IRA member turned politician who claims that he no longer has ties to the terrorist organization. But Quan knows better and doesn’t believe this for one second and decides to take matters into his own hands.

“Do I hear Beach Boys?”

The Foreigner is a whole bunch of thrillers, rolled-up and spat out into one. It’s a Hong-Kong action-thriller; it’s a conspiracy thriller; it’s a dramatic thriller about loss, regret, and family; it’s a small bit of an espionage thriller; and oh yeah, it’s a bit of a pulpy, rather over-the-top thriller, too. All of them are fine, no doubt, but put together, it’s a tad bit of a mess.

But coming from director Martin Campbell, it’s a fine, fun, and old-school mess that feels like it was made with class and precision, even though it never plays out that way. Campbell knows a thing or two about these kinds of thrillers, and while there’s maybe one too many strands of plot to fully work as one, cohesive whole, Campbell himself never seems to want to be bored. He keeps everything moving and at a somewhat lively pace, that even when it seems like we’re harping on one plot for too long, he moves right on to the next one, in hopes that we don’t take notice of how it doesn’t really fit together all that well.

Like a true pro, that Martin Campbell.

But what’s perhaps most interesting about the Foreigner is how it takes two of the world’s most recognizable action-stars of yesteryear, and puts them in roles that you don’t least expect to see them in. Pierce Brosnan, in what seems like forever, is playing an all-out, full-on bad guy and it’s a great sight; he’s angry, sporting an Irish-accent, and constantly seeming like his eyes are going to bulge out of his skull. It’s the kind of hammy and over-the-top role that would normally kill any actor, but Brosnan is such a class-act, he seems like he’s just genuinely having a ball and not caring who knows it.

“008, out.”

Same goes for Chan, although, it’s fair to say that if you’ve ever tracked down any of his Hong-Kong martial-arts films that don’t star Owen Wilson, or Chris Tucker, then you know he’s capable of playing these darker characters, with shadier morals than we expect. But as usual, Chan’s good in the role, because it’s less about him jumping, diving, and ass-kicking (which he can still sort of do, even at 65), but more about the sadness deep inside of the eyes. And you can see it all and it’s a sign that even though he may not be able to do the stunts anymore, Chan still has some acting-muscles to stretch and work-out with.

But really, nostalgia is the real reason why the Foreigner works as well as it does.

The action, the twists, and the turns are all fine and make this movie a lot better than it has to be, but watching Chan and Brosnan up on the screen, shouting at one another without having to resort to fist-a-cuffs, feels like a nice diversion from everything else in the world. With so many thrillers turning into crazy, over-bloated messes, it’s nice to get one that’s lean, mean, and a little nasty.

It’s still a mess, but hey, they can’t all be winners.

Consensus: With an old-hat direction from Martin Campbell, the Foreigner feels like a solid throwback to the thrillers of yesteryear, with Brosnan and Chan putting in great work, and measuring up and beyond the rather convoluted and silly script.

6 / 10

Every early-to-mid-90’s fanboy’s dream, 20 years later.

Photos Courtesy of: STX Films

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The Lady in the Van (2015)

More people need to listen to Matt Foley.

During the 70’s and 80’s of London, playwright and occasional actor Alan Bennett (Alex Jennings) was in desperate need of some sort of inspiration in his life. And not just for writing either – also, he was looking for a reason to love another person and not just have wild one night stands with all sorts of usual suspects from in and around the area. His inspiration comes, however, it’s in the form of a homeless woman named Miss Shepherd (Maggie Smith); a smart, but quick-witted lady who, unsurprisingly, lives in her van. While Miss Shepherd starts off by living in the street of Bennett’s neighborhood, after some time, and plenty of ordinances and tickets from local law enforcement, she moves into Bennett’s driveway where she also starts to use his toilet and poke her nose into his business. This eventually leads Bennett himself to start looking into Miss Shepherd’s life, her past, and the exact reasoning for why she decided to live all by herself in a van for all of these years. Because obviously, no person in their right mind would want to live in a dirty, smelly and disgusting van for the later-part of their life, so what’s the reason? Well, Bennett looks to find out and is surprised to hear the answers when they come around.

She's smart...

She’s smart…

Despite what the title may have you believe, the Lady in the Van isn’t really actually about “the lady in the van”; in fact, it’s more about the person who wrote the book and had to experience the titled-character, author Alan Bennett. And to prove this, the movie doesn’t just who the story being told from Bennett’s perspective, but also uses this awkward, unneeded plot-mechanism where instead of getting one Bennett telling the story, we get another. The reason director Nicholas Hytner uses this is to show us the two combating sides of Bennett; one of the sides, is “the writer” who constantly thinks and toggles with the idea of what to write about what happened or didn’t happen, and then, there’s “the human”, who actually does a lot of the actions he’s thinking about doing to begin with.

The only reason I discuss this and show this off, is because it’s not only annoying every time it shows up, but completely silly. Sure, we get that Bennett is a writer and is in desperate need of some great, big story to carry him through the next few years of his life, but do we really need to hear or be shown his every single, little thought that goes through his head? Can’t we just see it all play-out? Or better yet, make up our own conclusions of what’s going through his mind at said point in the story?

Of course we can, but the Lady in the Van, the movie itself, doesn’t really hold that much subtlety.

Which isn’t to say that Maggie Smith, perhaps the best thing about the Lady in the Van, truly is lovely and adorable playing said lady who lives in the van. As usual, Smith always has some sort of smart-remark to make at the expense of someone else, and allows for her keen observations to run wild, but there’s more to this character that does in fact make her interesting. We get to hear more about her past life and while none of it is as developed as it probably should have been, the movie still gives Smith plenty of chances to pick up most of the slack and do something magical with this character.

Then again, though, the movie isn’t totally about her – it’s about Bennett, his life, and his experience with this lady living in the van.

...sassy...

…sassy…

Which really, isn’t such a bad thing, because Bennett himself, as well as his relationship with the lady living in the van, is actually quite interesting. For one, the movie never makes Bennett out to be some sort of latter-day saint who took this old lady into his home, washed her, fed her, and gave her the kind of sympathy and shelter she oh so desired – instead, the movie shows him as kind of a closed-off dick who, yes, may be a bit sympathetic to her cause, but is in no way opening his arms anytime soon. But for some reason, that doesn’t sympathetic or unsympathetic, just human and it’s frustrating to see the movie constantly confuse itself with the two factors and not know what to do or say about the character.

It should also be noted that Alex Jennings is actually good in the role of Bennett, someone who may deserve a better movie than the one he’s been given here. Because even when it isn’t focusing on Bennett’s, or Miss Shepherd’s life, the movie tries hard to be cute and sweet, but also loses itself in thinking it’s too much of that, and forget to actually develop the story itself. As I said before, there’s some form of mystery surrounding Miss Shepherd and her shady, unknown past, but the movie doesn’t really go too far in detailing that anymore than just a few clues here and there; not that I minded watching Maggie Smith be grumpy to those around her, but after the eighth or ninth scene in a row of seeing that happen, it got to be a bit tiring and all of a sudden, I remembered that there was a story to be told here that, believe it or not, wasn’t actually being told.

Then again, maybe the actual story of the Lady in the Van wasn’t all that eventful to begin with. That this is a true story, it already calls into question the authenticity of what’s being presented, as well as how much actually holds up when in the court of all. After all, the true story of this whole thing could have just been that Miss Shepherd was a grumpy, old homeless woman who was, of course, smelly, but also, was mean to a lot of those around her. Whether any of them deserved it or not, the movie never really gets into, but it makes you think just if there was anything more to this woman, or her story, than where’s it at?

Or is this just it? Probably is, but oh well.

Consensus: The Lady in the Van definitely receives assistance from the fine performances of Jennings and Smith, but really, it’s messy narrative-structure and plot-devices don’t come together well enough to give them a movie worthy of their talent.

5.5 / 10

...and yes, an old woman. So of course she's like some fun. Who doesn't?!?!

…and yes, an old woman. So of course she’s like some fun. Who doesn’t?!?!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983)

Apparently, we needed more fluffy creatures.

After he lost his hand and found out just exactly who his daddy is, Luke (Mark Hamill), Leia (Carrie Fisher), Chewie (Peter Mayhew), and of course, the rest of the gang get together in hopes of saving the now-frozen Han Solo (Harrison Ford) from the lair of notorious crime boss Jabba the Hutt, who now has him set-up as a set decoration of sorts. Mostly though, what the gang is looking to achieve here is that they’re able to get the Rebel Alliance all back together so that they can make one final push to take down the Empire once and for all. Issue is, the Sith is stronger than ever and, for the moment, seems as if they’re not afraid of a challenge. However, because Luke feels as if the force is strongest with him than ever before, he’s extra determined to take on the Sith, even if that does also mean he’ll have to take down his own father – someone he’s trying to connect with and change back to the bright side, but also knows that it may be a lost cause.

Meanwhile, Ewoks show up.

A goner, he is.

A goner, he is.

One of the main issues with finales in a series, is that they tend not to live up to everybody’s expectations. This is especially true in the case of Return of the Jedi, which, not only had the huge expectation of being a Star Wars movie, but also had to follow up both A New Hope, as well as the Empire Strikes Back. If anything, the odds were totally stacked against Return of the Jedi and well, needless to say, the wall sort of came tumbling down on it.

For one, Lucas’ writing, if anything, seems lazy here. Perhaps for the first half-hour or so, we spend watching what happens in Jabba’s little club of sorts and instead of feeling like a necessary bit of scenery that’s interesting to see, it just feels over-done, drawn-out, and most importantly, an excuse for Lucas to give us more odd-looking creatures that kiddies can soon buy the toys of not too long after watching. Of course, Jabba is a terribly disgusting and vile creature, but Lucas only seems interested in just how dirty he is, and that’s about it. The first sequence of this flick could have easily been chopped-down to at least 15 minutes, but instead, Lucas continues to go on and on with this and it seems to suck out a good portion of the movie’s energy.

Then, in come the Ewoks.

Granted, when I was younger, watching the Ewoks waddle around, speak in their funny gibberish, and be so fluffy and hairy that you wonder how they look on your wall, that I couldn’t help but love them. Nowadays, I still feel the same, but at the same time, realize that they’re what does in Return of the Jedi. If anything, the Ewoks are, tonally, out-of-place; they’re cute, goofy, and perfect for little kids to point at and adore. However, the rest of the movie, as it seems to be, is actually pretty dark and epic, therefore, the movie as a whole feels like a bit of a mess. One second, we’ll be watching the Ewoks tie clones up in the house-sized nets, the next, we’ll be watching as Luke and Vader battle one another.

Clearly, Lucas was solely trying to sell merchandise here, and while there’s no problem with that in the long run of things, it helps to make people wonder just where his head was for this final flick? Was he trying to close everything up in a neat, little bow-tie? Or, was he just trying to wait around and see when the paycheck comes in? Whatever the truth may be, either way, something still doesn’t sit right for about a good portion of this movie and it’s all the more disappointing that, for mostly everybody at the time, this was the ultimate flick to end the original franchise.

Fathers: Can't trust 'em for anything.

Fathers: Can’t trust ’em for anything.

After this, there was supposed to be nothing else. So why go out on such a tame note?

Either way, Return of the Jedi isn’t as bad as people make it out to be – but at the same time, it still doesn’t feel like a whole lot of effort on Lucas’ part was given. The final battle between Luke and Vader is pretty awesome, the speeder chase scene still works, and yeah, watching as Han takes out baddies, is more than welcome by this point, but still, there’s something missing here that made it all work to begin with. There’s not enough heart and soul with this story, these characters, or just what this universe means. We know that the Death Star is bad, but really, that’s all we need to know and/or get to know.

And of course, everyone in Return of the Jedi feels as if they’re going through the motions again, but also don’t really benefit from a worthwhile script make them work harder and harder. Hamill’s Luke is a bit too serious now; Leia is nothing more than a sexy, objectified object for everyone to point and stare at; Solo doesn’t have much of anything witty or fun to say, so he just sort of coasts around this movie; and yeah, of course Vader is still freaky and evil.

But really, when was he not?

If anything, what Return of the Jedi proves perhaps best about Lucas is that, when push doesn’t come to shove, he could really care less. He’s happy to write anything down, give it a try and wait till the movie’s themselves all hit number 1. Not bad for a businessman, but this is the same guy most people trust with their childhood.

And how dare he let them down.

Consensus: By far the weakest of the original franchise, Return of the Jedi finds Lucas in too much of a comfort-zone and keeps the final installment, from being the most epic, memorable and exciting.

5.5 / 10

The gang's back together and clearly more bored than ever!

The gang’s back together and clearly more bored than ever!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire