Tag Archives: Pierce Brosnan

No Escape (2015)

No-Escape-poster-2

No Escape is a really unusual film that will be hard to swallow for a lot of people, even if they find its other aspects appealing.

The plot is simple: Owen Wilson and Lake Bell play an American couple with two young girls who relocate to Southeast Asia to work for an American engineering company. Shortly after they arrive — and get acquainted with a British dude played by Pierce Brosnan — there is a massive riot that has suddenly turned all locals against foreigners. And we’re not talking about peaceful demonstrations here — these Asians are equipped with machetes and machine guns and they’re out for blood.

From one perspective No Escape just a moronic, xenophobic and exploitative film about an American family on the run from a bloodthirsty mob in an unnamed Southeast Asian country that looks and sounds a lot like Thailand (which happens to be where it was shot). The film doesn’t really give a shit why this is happening; it just needed a lot of crazy people who want to kill white people, and I suppose SE Asians were the cheapest to hire.

There’s a feeble attempt to rationalize it all towards the end of the movie, but by then nothing really makes sense. It’s hard to imagine people moving to another country having zero idea that it’s not the most stable place in the world. And if it was semi-stable before the rioting then it’s hard to envisage everything turning to absolute shit at the drop of a hat with no warning whatsoever.

Given the film’s senseless brutality, lack of explanation, and its painting of a group of people with the same brush, it is no wonder that No Escape has been hilariously described as “World War Z with Asians.”

However, from a different perspective — if you can leave all the political incorrectness aside — No Escape is an effectively violent and tense action-thriller that offers a breath of fresh air from all the other Taken wannabe films in recent years (incidentally, Owen Wilson reportedly said in an interview that the tone of No Escape was akin to Taken — personally, I think he might have been shooting a little high there with that comparison).

I have to admit though that the film does have its entertaining moments. That sense of primal fear and panic from the relentless rampaging Asians comes across as genuine, and it’s not hard to put yourself in the shoes of the protagonists and imagine how terrifying it would be. Much of that is thanks to the solid performances from Wilson and Bell, though Brosnan’s character is a little overdone and, along with some ill-timed slow-motion shots, makes the film campier than it ought to have been. One thing I will say, and I’m not sure if I should be saying it, is that I was really hoping for their two spoiled little shits to get killed because they kept stuffing things up by being completely uncooperative. They’re not too young to understand that people will no doubt brutalise and kill them if they don’t do exactly as their parents tell them.

In all, No Escape is terribly inconsiderate, but I wouldn’t say it’s terrible. The film will inevitably have its haters, and let’s face it, most of it is probably deserved. Despite the attempts of the filmmakers (namely director John Erick Dowdle, who last gave us the horror flick As Above, So Below) to appear less like dickheads by making the country unnamed and to mess up the language, etc to not target any specific group of people, there’s no denying that they have essentially portrayed all SE Asians as rabid zombified brutes or meaningless collateral damage. That said, if you can see past all that and accept the film for what it is, then it’s really not a bad action thriller. Having seen my fair share of unflattering, stereotypical portrayals of white people in Asian cinema, I’ve developed quite an impressive insensitivity to insensitivity, and as such I tend to focus more on the film’s positives than its negatives.

3 stars out of 5

Movie Review: The November Man (2014)

november man

Whenever I see an aging star in a new action flick, I immediately think: Taken rip off! But The November Man, starring former 007 Pierce Brosnan, is no Taken imitator. It’s actually quite a clever and complicated political action thriller based on the novel There Are No Spies by Bill Granger. I wouldn’t quite put it in the 007 class, nor does it live up to the likes of the Bourne franchise, though all things considered, The November Man is a perfectly adequate and compelling film experience that proves old man Brosnan still has what it takes.

Brosnan plays Peter Devereaux, an old CIA spy who went into retirement after his protégé David Mason, played by Aussie Luke Bracey, disobeyed his order and caused a tragedy. Five years later, he is called out of retirement to obtain crucial information from a spy who has been working undercover in the offices of a politician tipped to become the next Russian president.

The plot is quite complex; I wouldn’t call it convoluted, though you do need to pay attention. Essentially, the evidence leads Peter to a refugee worker played by Olga Kurylenko, whom he must protect from a deadly assassin. At the same time, he is pitted in the field against David, who is desperate to prove himself against his ex mentor.

There are twists and turns; people are not who they seem. Most of it is fairly typical spy thriller stuff, though I was quite intrigued by the intelligent narrative and the stylish execution of Roger Donaldson, who previously collaborated with Brosnan for Dante’s Peak and has films such as Thirteen Days, Species, The Recruit and The Bank Job on his resume. Those are all fairly solid but unexceptional films, and The November Man falls in the same category.

I was never that big of a fan of Brosnan as James Bond, but he was very good in this. Looked the part, felt the part. By comparison, Luke Bracey came across as a bit out of his depth, failing to match both Brosnan’s charm and screen presence. The dynamic sort of matched what was happening between their characters on screen too.

On the whole, The November Man is neither great nor memorable, but it is still an entertaining spy action thriller that represents a welcome return to form for Brosnan.

3.5 stars out of 5

Start of Year DVD Blitz: Part I

As promised, here is my first set of DVD reviews for the start of 2011!

Centurion (2010)

Here’s another one that when I first saw the trailer thought was going to be a hit — but strangely, it either never screened or screened for such a short time that nobody noticed, then went straight to DVD.

Centurion is based on the Roman conquest of the Picts, told from the perspective of the ill-fated Ninth Legion.  It’s dark, moody, gritty, extremely violent and gory, and a surprisingly enjoyable ride.  Even though we get the story from the side of the Romans, there are really no good guys or villains in this one.  

Excellent performances from a great cast, including Michael Fassbender, Olga Kurylenko and Dominic West, even though the script and characters probably don’t do the performances justice.

Centurion certainly doesn’t have the depth or wide appeal of Gladiator, but hardcore battle fans (like myself) might get a kick out of it because it does have some wonderful battle and fight scenes.

3.5 stars out of 5

Cop Out (2010)

This buddy cop comedy starring Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan (from 30 Rock) and directed by Kevin Smith has been on many of the ‘Worst Film of the Year’ lists, so I decided to check it out for myself.

And well…I didn’t personally hate the film, but it was pretty awful, especially when you factor in the director (Smith has been a favourite of mine, even though this is the first time he didn’t direct his own material) and the all-star cast (which also includes Rashida Jones, Jason Lee, Sean William Scott, Adam Brody and Kevin Pollack).

My problem with Cop Out was that it wasn’t as funny or clever as it thought it was.  I haven’t seen much of 30 Rock, but Tracy Morgan was extremely annoying.  He just wouldn’t stop shouting and screaming all the time.  It was exhausting to watch and listen to him go on like a lunatic for the overlong 107-minute running time.

There were a couple of amusing scenes but most of it was pretty stock standard stuff that you’d see in any B-grade comedy.

1.75 stars out of 5

Remember Me (2010)

Enter the non-Twilight star vehicle for Rob Patz to showcase his acting chops as Tyler Hawkins, an American college student who has a dead brother, a neglected younger sister and a father (Pierce Brosnan) who is too absorbed in his work to care.  He meets and befriends Ally Craig (Emilie de Ravin), a girl with a dead mother and an overprotective cop father.  Sad, tragic, melodramatic love story.

Remember Me is depressing and tries too hard to tug at the heart strings through numerous ‘please feel sorry for me’ sequences.  At its core it’s not a horrible film, but there’s not a whole lot going for it.  It had a strong introductory sequence but went downhill from there, and even though I expected things to pick up and the various plot threads to be tied together, it never really happened.

The ending, which I’m sure gets discussed a lot, came out of nowhere, and I believe some might even find it offensive to pull a stunt like that.

Watchable for Rob Patz fans, but everyone else won’t be missing much by skipping this one.

2 stars out of 5

Knight and Day (2010)

Knight and Day is acomedy action film about an ordinary girl caught up in the world of CIA operatives and dangerous/revolutionary inventions.  It’s fast paced, outrageous, over-the-top, and quite fun if you don’t take it seriously.

However, I didn’t really like it much.  To be honest, it’s probably because the film stars Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz.  I used to really like Cruise, but ever since he lost the plot there’s just something off about him, even on screen.  Maybe he’s getting too old, but the suave routine he got used to pulling on Top Gun and Mission: Impossible doesn’t work for me anymore.  As for Diaz, sorry if this offends anyone, but I really dislike her face.  I know she’s considered one of the most attractive women in the world, but I simply don’t get it.  It became a distraction to the detriment of the viewing experience.

Knight and Day is a film that runs on the charm and chemistry of the two main characters, so fans of Cruise/Diaz might enjoy it a lot more than I did.  But unfortunately for me, I let my prejudices get the better of my objective judgment.

2.5 stars out of 5

Me and Orson Welles (2009)

A coming-of-age/character study film by Richard Linklater about a 17-year-old kid (Zac Efron) who got to spend a few months with Orson Welles (Christian McKay), the man credited with making Citizen Kane, a film widely regarded as the best of all time.  However, this film takes place in 1937 (4 years before Citizen Kane), and it was about a stage production of Julius Caesar.

It’s pretty light-hearted, harmless stuff, but to me, it was more like ‘Meh’ and Orson Welles.  Perhaps lovers of period pieces and those who appreciate meticulously designed sets and the threatre might enjoy it more than I did.  I don’t deny that the film is well-made, though I can’t help it if it didn’t get my juices flowing.

Efron is adequate and McKay is actually brilliant as Welles, the egotistical, narcissistic genius, but neither the technical attributes nor the performances made me enjoy this film as much as I wanted to.

3 stars out of 5

I still have a few more left — Part II should be coming soon.