Tag: pierce brosnan

The Foreigner

The Foreigner (2017)
★★★ / ★★★★

12 dead, 38 injured from a clothing store bombing in London claimed by a group called “Authentic IRA.” Minh, a restaurant owner, played with a permanently dour expression by Jackie Chan, demands to learn the identities of those responsible after his teenage daughter perished in the terrorist attack. His target: Northern Island First Minister Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan), a former IRA leader who works with the British to maintain peace between the two countries. Martin Campbell’s action-thriller “The Foreigner” is not a straightforward action picture with revenge at its core. As can be expected from a Chan flick, there are jaw dropping stunts and energetic violence. Surprisingly, however, our protagonist’s methods can be downright questionable at times, particularly when he sets off bombs to try to get what he wants. Even the minister’s loyalty is obfuscated, a politician who holds his cards close to his chest while at work and at home. There is intrigue, even if it is the superficial variety, because David Marconi’s screenplay ensures that the audience has an appreciation of each key player’s motivation. It moves at a brisk pace and never wears out its welcome.

No Escape

No Escape (2015)
★★ / ★★★★

Jack (Owen Wilson), an engineer, is hired by a company in Cambodia and he is required to relocate long-term so he takes his wife, Annie (Lake Bell), and two daughters (Sterling Jerins, Claire Geare) to move overseas with him. Unbeknownst to them, hours prior to their arrival, a coup has started, beginning with the assassination of a Cambodian prime minister in the hands of rebels. These rebels wish to kill all Americans they can find, with special interest in those involved with the same company that hired Jack.

“No Escape,” directed by John Erick Dowdle, is an entertaining thriller with a knack for establishing and building suspenseful scenes. Although the delivery misses at times, there is enough craft here to warrant a mild recommendation. However, the picture would have been stronger if the screenplay had spent more time establishing the political landscape eventually so the audience could have a clearer context as to why these murders are occurring. The key word is “eventually” because the film is at its best during the first thirty minutes—the fact that we do not exactly know why violence is erupting in the streets. We could only guess and that is part of the horror.

The movie is composed mostly of chase sequences and so it is most necessary that there is variation in the approach so we are never bored. On this level, it delivers. There are chases outdoors, indoors, solo, as a group, in broad daylight, at night, on foot, and using a vehicle. Sometimes the smartest thing to do is to hide rather than to outrun. The score enters and exits—and as in good horror or thrillers, it knows when to be silent in order to make us tense up all the more.

A standout scene takes place on a rooftop as the rebels close in on the family of interest. Jack has a crazy idea of jumping onto the next building. It might have been easier if he were alone in his attempt to survive. But children are neither physically able to jump that far nor psychologically ready for taking on such a task. What is to be done then? It must be seen to be believed. I felt proud of the director, who co-wrote the film with Drew Dowdle, because he was willing to go there. Yes, there is a comedic pre- and/or after effect but it is due to a healthy mix of sheer excitement and a sense of incredulousness.

Pierce Brosnan plays a British man named Hammond whose role is both predictable and underwhelming. Although he does a good job in playing the character, the more intelligent choice would have involved casting a performer who we do not expect to play such a character. Here, it is almost too easy and so when the chips are down and the family’s time is seemingly up, we expect Hammond to show up and save them.

“No Escape” ticks off the necessary ingredients that results in a highly watchable thriller. It makes a few fresh choices in terms of putting together images so that a sense of urgency is created and we believe that this family is truly in danger. If there had been a well-defined context designed to support the chaos and violence, it could have turned a different beast altogether.

Salvation Boulevard

Salvation Boulevard (2011)
★★ / ★★★★

After a campus debate, Professor Blaylock (Ed Harris), an atheist, invites his opponent, Pastor Dan Day (Pierce Brosnan), an evangelical Christian, and Carl (Greg Kinnear), a former Grateful Dead devotee who became God’s follower, into his office to offer a proposal of co-authoring a book called “The Great Divide.” In theory, its contents would present their respective sides which could be beneficial their missions.

For Pastor Day, he hopes to bring non-believers to Christ and for Blaylock, he hopes believers can learn to see reason. However, just when the two are about to seal the deal, the pastor playfully aims an armed gun at the professor and accidentally presses the trigger. Carl and Pastor Day stare in horror at the lifeless body sprawled on the floor.

“Salvation Boulevard,” based on the screenplay by Douglas Stone and George Ratcliff, are peppered with very good ideas about the conflicting tenets of a religion by highlighting the sanctimoniousness and gullibility of its followers but it has one too many poorly executed characters which blurs its focus so consistently, its tone never quite aligns with the supposedly biting satirical jokes.

It is appropriate that Carl is almost always on camera because he serves as the questioning sheep. Kinnear does a wonderful job playing Carl as a man who is experiencing a crisis of faith; instead of going for easy histrionics to appear funny, the actor makes fresh choices and does the opposite.

In a handful of scenes, especially when Carl is forced under a spotlight by being the topic of conversation, directly or otherwise, he has a way of almost withdrawing into his invisible shell. Kinnear’s body language, even though his character is somewhat of a shy person, communicates plenty: Carl considers his history with sex and drugs as a stigma and so people in his community, even his family, cannot help but pick up on his private shame. He is a scarred man in that he has never been allowed to move on from his past. And yet although we feel for Carl, the screenplay is smart in not allowing us to pity him.

Despite a rather complex protagonist, the film is impaired by supporting characters who lack dimension. Since each of them has one goal, it is as if the writing felt obligated to follow their strands up to a certain point while not doing a very good job in staying with Carl’s story. For instance, there is a businessman named Jorge Guzman de Vaca (Yul Vazquez) clearly designed to provide a bridge between Carl—the sheep—and Pastor Day— the shepherd. While an intense character when things do not go his way, he is not utilized in such a way that he comes across crucial to the arc of the story, just a passerby who must be placed in a specific spot while looking stern when necessary and to be taken out when it is time for comedic or ironic punches.

A similar technique is executed with Honey Foster (Marisa Tomei), a security guard and former Deadhead fan. She is such an energetic character—for a lady who loves her weed—and it is awkward how she seems to just disappear right in the middle of the movie. We only hear about her again at the end when the subtitles inform us what eventually happens to her.

Based on the book by Larry Beinhart and directed by George Ratcliff, there are lines of dialogue in “Salvation Boulevard” that made me laugh hard. Even the more obvious jokes made me chuckle. When the funny does come, however, I was reminded how much sharper the material could have been if the script that removed unnecessary distractions for the sake of buying time.

Dante’s Peak

Dante’s Peak (1997)
★★★ / ★★★★

One of my first memories was the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines. I saw the destruction of our home, felt rocks falling from the sky, panic beginning to grow, and sky being so dark because the ash was so thick. Pierce Brosnan stars as volcanologist Harry Dalton who visited a small town led by Linda Hamilton as the mayor. Harry believed that the volcano was going to erupt soon because classic signs began to emerge, but his fellow volcanologists thought there was no scientific evidence to warrant immediate evacuation. Predictably enough, just when everyone finally agreed on a course of action, Dante’s Peak began to unleash major destruction. Evacuation became complicated for romantically entangled Harry and the mayor because the mayor’s kids (Jeremy Foley, Jamie Renée Smith) stupidly drove up the mountain to rescue dear old grandmother (Elizabeth Hoffman) who wouldn’t leave her home. I understand the negative reviews incited by this film. The acting was thin, the script was mediocre and the story was cliché. However, I admit that I enjoyed watching it because when I see a disaster flick, some of the elements I look for are destruction, visual and special effects, and a struggle for survival. This picture had those three elements. I thought the movie was at its best during the more silent moments where we were led to believe that certain characters were about to meet their demise. I don’t bite my nails (I think it’s a filthy habit) but I felt the urge to do so during the boat scene. The characters had no choice but to take a boat because lava was everywhere. But little did they know that the lake water had been turned into acid and it was eating away the boat’s metallic structure. In a nutshell, the boat was slowly sinking and touching the water meant a painful death. I’m most engaged when characters are trapped and I can’t find a solution for their predicament. Admittedly, some scenes did bother me such as Hamilton’s lack of leadership. As a mayor, I expected to see her making difficult decisions in times need–not just her own or her children’s but also the town’s. Instead, we saw her passing out coffee and going head over heels when she was around Harry. I felt like she wasn’t a very good leader or a role model which was a shame because I knew she was capable of delivering strength because she starred in James Cameron’s first two “Terminator” pictures. “Dante’s Peak,” written by Leslie Bohem and directed by Roger Donaldson, had its weaknesses because of its adamancy to stick with the formula but as a popcorn blockbuster, it had its moments of genuine suspense.

The Ghost Writer

The Ghost Writer (2010)
★★★ / ★★★★

Adapted from Robert Harris’ novel, Ewan McGregor played a ghostwriter who was hired to help complete an ex-British prime minister’s (Pierce Brosnan) memoir. Suspecting that something wasn’t quite right in the former British prime minister’s stories compared to what was said by the media and those around him, The Ghost did an investigation of his own which led him to endanger his life. Directed by the controversial Roman Polanski, what I liked most about the film was the director’s ability to take material that we’ve seen before concerning the dangers of politics and inject just the right mood and pacing to create something quietly sinister. I must admit that I did not immediately understand what was going on because it felt as though the protagonist was thrusted onto an island where he had barely any idea what he was doing or why he was really there. He tried to convince himself that he was there for an assignment (with great pay) but his instincts made him question until he couldn’t bear his curiosity any longer. The characters such as the former prime minister’s lead assistant (Kim Cattrall, whom I would love to see more in serious roles), wife (Olivia Williams), and even the housekeeper made me feel uneasy so I could not help but suspect them of hiding something key that might lead to the big revelation. Another interesting layer was the question of whether The Ghost was really on an assignment involving politics, or personal revenge, or possibly both. The questions were difficult to answer and the answers were vague. But I liked the fact that the movie chose to challenge its audience by allowing us to read between the lines. Since the real answers were elusive, we couldn’t help but question whether our protagonist was truly on the right track in terms of solving the mystery or whether he was merely putting together random information and forcing himself to make sense of them. “The Ghost Writer” thrived on subtlety and often reminded me of the underrated “Breach” directed by Billy Ray. Like that film, what kept the film together was not the extended action scenes but the strong acting and constantly evolving atmosphere. Perhaps I am giving the movie too much credit but I did notice some references to noir pictures in the 1940s, the most obvious one being Stanley Kubrick’s “The Killing.” My only minor complaint was I hoped Polanski used Tom Wilkinson a lot more. Wilkinson managed to do so much with how little he was given and it would have been interesting to see how much more he could have turned the main character’s life upside down if he had been given more material.

Remember Me

Remember Me (2010)
★ / ★★★★

Robert Pattinson stars as Tyler who had issues with dad (Pierce Brosnan) because Tyler still blamed him for his older brother’s suicide. Tyler also believed that dad did not spend enough time with his daughter (Ruby Jerins), a very gifted budding artist who was often bullied by other girls in her class. However, life started to get a little brighter when Tyler met Ally (Emilie de Ravin), the daughter of a cop (Chris Cooper) who unfairly arrested Tyler the night before. I would have liked this film more if it had stuck to being a typical romantic drama about finding, losing and regaining romance. Instead, it pulled a ridiculous “twist” in the end that was totally unnecessary which, I have to admit, made me feel angry and emotionally cheated. I’ve read other reviews and others seem to have been moved by the final act because they claimed it was “shocking” or “revelatory.” I thought it was pretentious and it was done for mere shock value. It was unfortunate because I actually enjoyed this picture in parts. I loved how Tyler was an active role model in his sister’s life. He always gave her support and I felt his pain for losing his older brother who he obviously looked up to. He was often histrionic whenever his father was around but I understood where the anger came from because the father was a workaholic and it seemed like he did not want to spend time with his children. Tyler was blind to the fact that the job was his father’s defense mechanism. The personal struggles of the characters interested me even though at times the story was somewhat unfocused. It had too many subplots which was comparable to a pretty good two-hour pilot of a television show. I know that the shocker of an ending aimed to comment on the consequences of reconnection happening too late in the game and that we should be willing to forgive others but it was too heavy-handed for my liking. The performances were fine: Pattinson, unsurprisingly, was good at brooding and was able to deliver intensity (accompanied by glares) when required, I felt Brosnan’s coldness and charm at the same time, and de Ravin was precocious. The only one I found to be truly annoying was Tate Ellington as Pattinson’s roommate. His voice was not the kind of voice I would like to wake up to in the morning. In the end, “Remember Me,” written by Will Fetters and directed by Allen Coulter, was crushed by its own ambition. It was not aware of the line between true emotional impact and exploitation. The former is earned while the latter is not.

The Greatest

The Greatest (2009)
★★★ / ★★★★

When Bennett Brewer (Aaron Johnson) died in a car accident, his girlfriend (Carey Mulligan) knocked on his grieving family’s (Pierce Brosnan, Susan Sarandon, Johnny Simmons) door, told them that she was pregnant, and had nowhere else to go. The film focused on grief: the father internalized his anger and sadness so that the family would not collapse, the mother was obsessed with her son’s last seventeen minutes of life and held the belief that her son would still be alive if it was not for his girlfriend, while the son turned to drugs and grief counseling. The movie grabbed my attention because I thought it would be more about the unwed mother’s struggle in trying to cope with her situation. I was pleasantly surprised that she was generally happy with her situation and the only thing she craved was more information about the father of her baby. I was impressed with the way the picture balanced the four main characters and their styles of coping. Instead of going for the jugular and simply letting the audiences feel sorry for them, sometimes the characters said certain things that were hateful but we remind ourselves that they needed closure in order to feel right again. However, I found certain missteps especially toward the last fifteen minutes. When Brosnan’s character finally opened up, something did not feel quite right. That scene begged for a retake because it felt forced. Yes, he managed to internalize (with elegance) negative emotions throughout the film but I had a difficult time believing that he coincidentally opened up because the movie was coming to a close and his wife finally realized the truth. It felt contrived, almost too soap opera-like, and it stood out to me in a negative way because I thought the rest was consistently convincing. Another issue I had was the son’s connection with the girl (Zoë Kravitz) whose sister committed suicide. It fell flat because the latter’s performance felt too Disney Channel and I caught myself rolling my eyes when she was on screen. Maybe it would have worked if an actress that had been casted was used to playing with her character’s subtleties. Written and directed by Shana Feste, what I loved most about “The Greatest” was its earnest honesty despite some scenes that were not completely convincing. It had enough insight about people going through different stages of grief. I also loved it when Brosnan and Sarandon lashed out at each other in passive-aggressive ways just as much as I loved observing Mulligan’s elegance and Simmons’ potential to become a versatile actor. Ultimately, I wished it had more scenes of lingering camera work where the characters in frame did not say a word, such as the daring scene in the limousine after the burial.