JOHN WICK (THE FIRST CHAPTER) – A VIOLENT REVENGE MOVIE WHICH TAKES ITSELF WAY TOO SERIOUSLY

AUDIO PODCAST OPTION OF THE REVIEW OF JOHN WICK (THE FIRST CHAPTER)

SHORT TAKE:

Ultra-violent movie which skates on a thin excuse for revenge to create large piles of dead bodies.

WHO SHOULD WATCH:

Adults only, and then only those with a stomach for violence: intense weapon and martial-art combat lethal force, and  extreme language. Its only “virtues” are a minimal amount of sexuality, mostly limited to bikini clad escorts, and the fact that the protagonist is a devoted and faithful, albeit grieving, husband.

LONG TAKE:

I know I’m probably the last one on the train here with John Wick (2014) as it has been out so long there is now a third installment. Having just seen the first one and with the John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum in theaters now, I felt compelled to make some comments about the “origin” story.

SPOILERS FOR JOHN WICK, TURNER AND HOOCH, A DOG’S PURPOSE, AND MARLEY AND ME

The premise, in case you have been on a prolonged abstinence from movies, is that a retired assassin goes on a massive killing spree after someone shoots his dog.

Now there is more to it but that is what it boils down to. John Wick verges on, if is not steeped in, what one might label as violence “porn” ( by which I mean senseless and gratuitous violence for the purpose of cathartic schadenfreude* brutality), though of a certain attractive elegance, which takes itself way too seriously. Don’t get me wrong , I am sympathetic to Wick’s righteous anger over the unnecessary killing of a puppy. As I have mentioned before in other posts, while I can tolerate an awful lot of violence in an action movie, I cringe at the thought of something happening to a dog. That point has actually prevented me from ever watching a couple of movies, including:

SPOILERS

Turner and Hooch, and Marley and Me. I have even been putting off watching A Dog’s Purpose even though the dog gets reincarnated multiple times, because I know the viewing will require a couple boxes of kleenex.

My point being, from a cinematic point of view, I am quite sympatico with a lead whose motivation, which propels the entire running time, is the death of his dog.

However, even by my rather indulgent parameters of an average action movie, wherein the protagonist is given nothing to lose, I could not help but yell at the screen occasionally, wondering why his opponents did not handle the situation quite differently.

The mutt murderer was, Iosef, (Alfie Allen best known as Theon Greyjoy in Game of Thrones), the son of John’s previous employer, Viggo, a Russian mafia Don,  (Michael Nyqvist from Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and the Naomi Rapace version of the Dragon Tattoo girl). Iosef had come to steal John’s hot car – and the dog just got in the way.

As Viggo, the Slavic Vito Corleone points out, it was bad luck that brought them back together in this way. But a little common sense and a teensy bit of courtesy could have mitigated the situation, if not established an easy detente.

The dog was the last gift from John’s dying wife. From the reaction of wiser heads than the aforementioned Iosef, the dog dispatcher, everyone knew about this and what the legendary assassin, John’s, response was likely to be. A hitman with nothing to lose and a lot of grief anger to expend, is a recipe for a bloodbath.

Therefore, I thought, had I been Viggo, (and keep in mind I am stepping into the shoes of a Mafia Don), I would have arrived with a new car, a new dog, a profuse apology, a chastised son with a black eye, and an offer to set up an entire charity Animal Hospital in the name of his deceased wife.

Instead, Viggo, knowing his son was stupidly in the wrong, as evidenced by the beating he gave Iosef after the fact, puts a contract out on the man to whom he refers as the best of the best, the one who was called Baba Yaga, not because he was The Boogeyman but because he was the one you sent out to kill The Boogeyman. This is a guaranteed plan for failure and Viggo’s downfall hereafter is from criminal (if you’ll excuse the pun) stupidity. I couldn’t help but think of Hawkeye in Thor. Watching Thor dispatch agent after agent in Thor’s path towards Mjolnir, Hawkeye quips to Coulson: “Do you want me to take him down, or would you rather send in more guys for him to beat up?” Because, that is what Viggo does – he sends in squad after squad to kill this unkillable killing machine. Viggo’s men are about as effective as Storm Troopers and were this a video game John would have the High Score. But WHY???!!!

Viggo is an intelligent man or wouldn’t have been able to create and keep his empire. He MUST have seen the results of his decreasing returns. And no explanation is given as to why he would commit his entire army in a fruitless and hopeless effort to take out the one man he knows he can not defeat, especially when it seemed obvious to me there were alternatives. It’s not even that he is so committed to the protection of his son. Viggo doesn’t like or love his son and Viggo ultimately gives Iosef up to Wick as bait to save his own skin.

90% of the movie is John’s body count which quickly exceeds the opening scene in Saving Private Ryan.

I get the use of the MacGuffin. I even get stories where you put the protagonist in a corner with nothing to lose and watch them fight their way out. Movie franchises like Taken, Die Hard, Jack Reacher and even a few of the James Bonds are good examples of a protagonist who resolved knotty conundrums with fists and firefights. And I am the first to admit they are guilty pleasures. But the motivations are usually more compelling, as in: protection of a vulnerable family member, a national danger, or the righting of a grave injustice. AND the protagonist usually is witty, relieving the unremitting gore and violence a bit with dry one liners.

But, despite the fact I have often maintained that Keanu Reeves has missed his calling as a comedian, Reeves’ Wick parkours his way through the movie on the backs of dead bodies with the somber deadpan of a mini-Lurch from The Addams Family. Don’t get me wrong, I like Keanu Reeves. I just wish someone would DO something with him which entails more EXPRESSION!!!

When I refer to Keanu Reeves’ comedies, I’m not talking about the unintentionally – so bad they are funny – like Constantine, and his insult to the classic Day the Earth Stood Still. Nor am I referring to his well done stint as the singular dry villain in Branagh’s Shakespearean comedy Much Ado About Nothing.  I’m talking about Reeves roles in legitimate comedies. If unfamiliar with Keanu Reeves’ comedies, I recommend the slapstick ridiculous Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and the wryly observant ensemble piece Parenthood. Both are for an older crowd though.

Reeves can be really amusing and cute with good timing. And while I’m not suggesting that a former assassin who has just lost his wife to cancer and his dog to a home invasion should be light-hearted, John Wick is unrelentingly grim where it perhaps did not have to be. I mean, Wick is SUPPOSED to be human, right?

I have often maintained that the best loved action films often have a sense of their own humor. Good examples are Jaws, Aliens (but only the second as the first and third are even grimmer than John Wick and the fourth is best simply ignored) and all the Die Hard movies. Tongue is planted occasionally but firmly in cheek and there is an awareness in the script of its own cliched vulnerability.

But Wick‘s level of constant violence with no emotional offsetting balance is just exhausting.

The cinematic atmosphere is dark and poetically sympathetic, as most of the movie takes place in dark interiors, at night, or in conjunction with bad weather.

There is an interesting juxtaposition with another film I have previously reviewed, which DOES have a sense of humor, called  Hotel Artemis. Much of the third act of John Wick takes place in the Continental, a hotel renowned as a high-class refuge for people in John Wick’s line of work. Like the Artemis, a hospital for the underworld with questionable aesthetics, the Continental has a primary rule: you are not supposed to kill any of the other guests. A certain neutrality is supposed to be enforced there amongst society’s lethal predators. These two – the titular Hotel Artemis and the Continental in John Wick – exist in a consistent universe where you could put them on a double bill or even together in the same movie. But Hotel Artemis, unlike John Wick, has a heart and knows when to recognize the grin in even the darkest human comedy, and is a far better movie for that.

Small parts and cameos from the action-adventure pool abound in Wick from both TV and film. Ian McShane, who has added his talents to everything from westerns to British and American cop shows to Pirates of the Caribbean, plays the owner of the Continental. Willem Dafoe who has appeared in movies as divergent as Platoon and Spider-Man 3 is a mysterious colleague / competitor. Adrianne Palicki, most notably the indominable Agent Bobby Hunter in Agents of Shield and Kelly Grayson in The Orville, is Perkins, a female assassin. Lance Reddick from Fringe and Blacklist is Charon, the concierge of the Continental. John Leguizamo, from Executive Decision and Baz Lurhmann’s ultra-violent version of Romeo and Juliet, is Aurelio, the chop shop owner to whom Iosef brings Wick’s stolen car and who is the first to clue Iosef in to his mistake with a punch in the mouth. There were so many cameos from the action adventure genre that I would not have been surprised to see Samuel L Jackson show up. Sadly, that was not to be.

The acting is good and the shoot-‘em-up-bang-bang with combined martial arts is well-choreographed and interesting as Wick dispatches his targets with precision and no innocent bystanders to the count.

Wick is obviously an anti-hero with a ledger redder than Black Widow’s. As action adventures go it was brainless fun and emotionally cathartic to watch a bunch of bad guys being blown away with incredible efficiency and expertise by another, but sympathetic, bad guy. It is always a pleasure of sorts to see anyone do their job with such skill and excellence whether they are a pastry chef, a ghost hunter, or a paid assassin. But still I couldn’t help perseverate on the plot point of the missing opportunity to mitigate. Had Viggo tried to placate Wick but been rebuffed I would have found the scenario far more believable at least within the universe of that genre.

But what I truly do not understand is how the film makers can justify one sequel much less two. I mean, in this first one John killed …….. EVERYBODY. And I wonder about the movie’s core world-view. Iosef, for all his being a completely cruel jerk, was not responsible for the death of John’s wife nor did he attempt to kill John. Therefore, John’s reaction to the theft of his car and slaughter of his puppy without at least an attempt at peaceful and equivocal recompense, to me seemed over the top even for this kind of movie, making it hard for me to empathize with a protagonist who creates this much mayhem.

Compared to similarly set up movies like the aforementioned Die Hard, Taken, or from a HUGE variety of styles where the protagonist goes on a mission to avenge a terrible wrong with extreme prejudice, like: True Grit, Death Wish, The Count of Monte Cristo, or Dirty Harry – even for me, even for this genre of movie – John’s reaction was too extreme and with insufficient reasonable motivation, making this a (if you’ll excuse the pun) fatally flawed story.

  •  schadenfreude – a German word for which there is no English equivalent, meaning: pleasure derived from someone else’s misfortune.

WINCHESTER – VERY SCARY MOVIE WITH A SURPRISINGLY THOUGHTFUL THEME

SHORT TAKE:

Extremely effective ghost story about the real life Winchester House, well told with a class cast and a pleasantly unexpected underlying thesis.

LONG TAKE:

SOME SPOILERS!

I truly believe that God puts people in your life that you need when you need them. It can be as small as a smile from a stranger when you are feeling blue or directions from a police officer when you are lost in a bad neighborhood or as significant as a chance encounter with someone who will become your lifelong friend.

In my case it was two obnoxious fellow moviegoers during Winchester. You see, it so happened that the night that worked best for my schedule for one of the scariest movies I have seen in a while, was the one night when NO one, because of either opportunity or preference, could go with me.

Winchester’s story is based upon the real house in San Jose which was built and rebuilt during a 38 year construction marathon by the heiress to 50% of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company fortune. Sarah Winchester inherited the today equivalent of a half billion dollars with a continuous income of $25,000 per day. She put this vast wealth to use in moving from New Haven, Connecticut to San Jose, California where she purchased and remodeled an unfinished farm house into a seven story mansion with 161 rooms, 2 ballrooms, 47 fireplaces, three cutting edge elevators and rare indoor conveniences for the era like forced air heating and indoor plumbing. An innovative floating foundation preserved the house from collapse after the devastating 1906 earthquake. In addition to these far thinking aspects to the house, and working without an architect, Sarah Winchester designed the home to     very peculiar specifications, sporting staircases which go nowhere    , rooms with windows which open into other rooms or  into the floor, labrynthian hallways which double back on themselves, a door which open to the outside from the third floor (think Roger Rabbit),  spiderweb motiffs,   groups of 13 items wherever possible and other bizarre features which seem to make no sense. Discount Hogwarts without benefit of movement in the staircases or animated portraits.

However, there are house ghosts.

The premise strives to explain the reason for the unique construction – that Sarah Winchester (Helen Mirren) built rooms to replicate those in which the "victims" of the Winchester rifle died, attract them to their room, then help them move on. She acts as sort of an afterlife psychotherapist – thnk the little lady in Poltergeist. After which, Sarah tears down the room and builds anew with a new tenant in mind. In this way she hopes to appease the angry dead and protect her niece and great-nephew Henry from their wrath.  Into this odd scenario comes Eric Price, a traumatized and opium addicted LIVING human psychotherapist (Jason "War for the Planet of the Apes" Clarke), a doctor who is unable to heal himself, hired by the Board of the Winchester Company to prove Sarah Winchester unfit to control her half of the Winchester stock. Although a wackier plot would be hard to find, the inimitable Dame Helen Mirren sells it with gusto and the director/scriptwriters, twin brothers Michael and Peter Spierig, do a good job of creating convincing back stories and atmosphere which make this all fit.

At this point I'm going to make a shameless fangirl plug for Dame Helen.

I have been following her career since I first saw her as Morgana in Excalibur and have loved everything I have seen her in since. (Please note the knight Mirren is holding hands with is an equally young Liam Neeson.) Some beautiful young women, if they are lucky, become handsome older women. Dame Helen stayed, simply, beautiful. I have seen her in really great movies and some truly tatty ones, but she always brings style, grace and skill to every transfigurative role she chooses.  (2010) (Fate of the Furious)(Gosford Park(Hitchcock) (The Madness of King George(National Treasure 2(The Queen(Raising Helen(Red) (as Prospera, in a female version of The Tempest

She is even teaching a Master Class in acting which is publically available online. AND a friend of mine once sought her out early in her career for an interview for the paper at which he was working. While refused, the refusal was in person…so he did get to meet her….. so that gives me only two degrees of separation, RIGHT????

One of the things I especially liked about the movie, Winchester, was the way the writers-Spierig kept us up in the air as to what is really going on. Is Eric having opium and withdrawal induce hallucinations or is he really in commune with the dead? Is Sarah just a batty old lady or is she really constructing half-way homes for the unquiet deceased? Is the boy truly possessed by an angry ghost or is he traumatized from having seen his abusive alcoholic father die? Was the mansion damaged by the fury of a thwarted poltergeist or did the 1906 earthquake wreck the havoc?

  The Winchester Mansion does exist and it really was severely damaged in 1906 – rending it from its pinnacle of seven stories down to its current four. Construction stopped the day Sarah Winchester died in 1922, afterwhich it was leased in 1923 and eventually purchased from her niece and heir by John and Mayme Brown, who opened it to public display. Dubbed the Winchester Mystery House by Harry Houdini during a tour in 1924, it is still an attraction to this day.

With set designs featuring beautifully period detail, effectively claustrophobic sets, and enough jump scares to unnerve even Beetlejuice, this movie is quite effective for the task to which it applied itself – namely scaring the living snot out of anyone who sees it.

But at the heart of the movie I found another far gentler theme. That God will send you those you need at just the right time. Without giving away too much, Eric, despite his addiction, self doubt and brokenness, heros up for Sarah’s family. And Sarah, despite her looniness, extreme eccentricities and decidedly peculiar guests, is just the friend Eric needs at this bottomed out moment of his life. In many ways, both save each other from fates arguably worse than death.

And this is when I realized….

You see, when I say I went to the movie by myself, I mean not only did I go with no one, but that the theater I was in was completely empty but for me. Row upon row of vacant seats greeted me and sat staring at my back while I endured half a dozen previews fitting for the main attraction, about demonic possession and murderous games. I was tempted to watch the intro credits with laced fingers. So when two people who failed to understand they were not watching the movie in their living room sat nearby, proceeded to make occasionally loud comments to each other, and texted throughout the movie, neglecting to even turn off the slight pinging sound announcing an incoming response, I was actually quite grateful. Every now and again one NEEDS to have their suspension of disbelief interrupted.

And if the oblivious persons in question just happen to read this blog – thank you – BUT – while your intrusiveness was quite helpful in this one instance……..for the next movie – keep it down and at least turn off the danged chime!!!

WARNINGS:

There is a lot of violence and, as I have mentioned, jump scares. Though no bad language, there is use of opiates and the presence of prostitutes though no nakedness or activities. So, obviously, I do not recommend this for young teens.

I also recommend AGAINST the movie for anyone theologically unformed or immature. On the one hand, there are no seances and an atheist does come to understand there is an afterlife. On the other, there is no mention of or appeal to God. But there is a lot of vague talk about spirituality and the ability, without reference to Divine assistance, to command and control unclean spirits, which could be very misleading, disquieting, and even dangerously influential to the vulnerable in mind or soul.

SWEENEY TODD – AT CENTRAL SCHOOL OCTOBER 26-29 – A PERFECT MOOD SETTER FOR HALLOWEEN – BUT FOR ADULTS ONLY

I was very excited to attend the rehearsal of KC Productions’ newest theater piece – Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd. The director Keith Chamberlain graciously allowed me to watch as our talented local cast strove to bring this very challenging musical to life.

For those of you not familiar with this very dark comedic play, Sweeney Todd is based on a series of anonymously written penny dreadfuls called The String of Pearls, which were later combined into a melodrama by Christopher Bond then turned into a musical by Stephen "Into the Woods" Sondheim. The shocking tale is of a man whose life is destroyed by the corrupt politicians in his town who send him unjustly to a penal colony in Australia in order that they might pursue his very beautiful wife. Todd returns 15 years later and seeks a unique brand of particularly gruesome revenge with the help of a slightly batty baker. Together they descend fully into the madness that wrath and vengeance will bring.

The original production starred Angela Lansbury who had to be persuaded to accept the role by Sondheim himself. Ms. Lansbury’s 1979 manifestation of Mrs. Lovett’s singing style in the manner of a dotty music hall performer established Lovett’s personality for everyone who has come after her. Len Cariou was hand picked by Sondheim as Sweeney Todd.

While others have tried to say Sweeney Todd is an allegory for the limited historic scope of the effects of the Industrial Revolution on the average man, Sondheim himself disagrees and makes the case for a more timeless interpretation: "Sweeney Todd is a man bent on personal revenge, the way we all are in one way or another, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with the time he lived in, as far as I'm concerned.”

My own personal view is that Sweeney Todd is intended to be a demonstration of the Confucian aphorism: "If you go to seek vengeance, you should dig two graves."

While NOT for kids, it is a complex classic replete with music very difficult to play or sing. Dissonant, syncopated, halting in melody, woven with multiple counterpoint parts, yet the musicians and singers turn the harshly written lyrics and tunes into catchy mesmerizing songs which capture the essence of the dark torment into which Todd has sunk, including, my favorite, a clever but chilling song called "A Little Priest".

Sweeney Todd is being staged at Central School, the historic building naturally accentuating the old world atmosphere.

So go see Sweeney Todd October 26 – 29 as the perfect lead up to Halloween. But whatever you do – don’t plan on a shave there and ………. don’t eat the meat pies.

Lara Connolly – Mrs. Lovett

Michael Davis – Sweeney Todd

Curry Burton – Judge Turpin

Ashley Traughber – Joanna

Tyler Brumback – Anthony

Evan Seago – Tobias

Kelly Rowland – beggar woman

Travis Stegall – Beadle

Jeff Johns Pirelli

Caleb Olbrych – Jonas Fog

Haley Cooley – young Lucy

Ensemble: Sarah Broussard, Ryan Byrne, Heather Champagne, Dylan Conley, Kathleen Evans, Steven Fox, Bob Goodson, Joel Jacob, Amy Phillips, Tim Smith, Stacey Solak, Ella Theriot, Gabriel Townsley, Jamie Young

Director – Keith Chamberlain

Piano – Andrew Steiner

 

The Foreigner – a compelling departure from “type” for both Chan and Brosnan

 Given that The Foreigner stars Pierce "best James Bond since Sean Connery" Brosnan and THE Jackie "most brilliant and funniest martial artist to ever live"  Chan, about a dad with special abilities beating up bad guys, there have been so many speculative anticipations of what The Foreigner might be that I think it best to start off with what The Foreigner is NOT.

The Foreigner is not comedy Kung-fu master versus James Bond. Nor is The Foreigner a version of Taken-Chan style.

The Foreigner IS a movie which proves that Pierce Brosnan and Jackie Chan are not just movie stars.

I remember the first time I ever saw Jackie Chan. B.C. (Before children) when we actually had time to kill, my husband would flip through channels and occasionally watch a kung fu movie. I found them dull but would sit next to him and either read a book or doze off. But then one day he found a movie which featured a guy using martial arts and beating up bad guys…with a LADDER! Who fights with a LADDER!? Of course it was Jackie Chan. The fluidity with which he fought, the cleverness with which he parried blows and attacked his foes were a pleasure to watch. AND he was FUNNY! Watching Jackie Chan fight was the martial arts equivalent of watching Gene Kelly dance!

I have been a big fan of Pierce Brosnan for decades. First saw him in the TV show Remington Steele. In this clever old TV show Brosnan plays a con man who impersonates the head of a private detective agency actually owned by a woman. Her business had not been going anywhere because people wanted to trust a male detective. So she invented a masculine boss and Brosnan's character, in a North by Northwest homage, accidentally becomes the flesh and blood front man. Brosnan's Steele was, at the same time, both suave and adorably bumbling, seeing every case as some version of an old classic film. Then eight years after the close of the show, when FINALLY given the shot at James Bond, Brosnan ramped up the suave but kept just a touch of the cheek with him, making Brosnan's the best Bond next to Connery they ever had.

…………………..The Foreigner features NONE of the above – nothing of the simpler and lighter personalities we have come to associate with either Brosnan or Chan are in evidence in The Foreigner. The Foreigner instead showcases Brosnan's and Chan's talents as ACTORS. Both, to their admirable credit,  play strongly against the type we have come to expect and love. Chan plays Quan Minh, a father devastated by the loss of his only surviving daughter to an IRA bomb in London. Shuffling humbly from police station to political representative, he personifies an almost stereotype Chinese man. Without giving away anything you wouldn't know from the trailers, it is not long before grief and frustration peels away the onion thin layers that hide the dangerous man he has hidden beneath this carefully cultivated, easy to underestimate, persona. Brosnan, for his part, plays Liam Hennessy, a weasely slick Irish Deputy Minister who is also both more and less than he first appears. A political animal, Hennessy superficially sympathizes with Chan's character but clearly has his own agenda forefront in his mind and plans.

In the beginning, we watch Chan as his catastrophic loss seems to gut him. Then we follow him as this emptying out process becomes a metamorphosis. Meanwhile, the writer, in a fascinating twist, carves out the background with Brosnan's Hennessy, which explains how this collateral damage came to be. We see a bigger more complex picture through the eyes of the innocent bystander, Minh, who will stop at nothing to get justice for his daughter. The explanation of the intrigue which casually took Minh's daughter's life takes on a life of its own so that we end up with two movies in one.  The two stories begin like strands from separate balls of yarn, but become knitted inextricably together in an unexpected and fascinating pattern.

This is not to say that Chan doesn't kick some serious booty – because he does. As my husband is wont to say – they should have never have left him with nothing to lose. And one of the many applaud worth aspects of The Foreigner is that the story does not attempt to turn Chan's Minh into a super hero. Minh's age is even mentioned several times, as in (paraphrasing) "How can we be getting our a***es handed to us by a 60 year old man!"

And Chan, the actor, doesn't hide his age either. When Minh takes on two 35 year old men in their prime, it takes its toll on Chan's character, as, I imagine it really did on his now 63 year old body in a realistic way.

Over the years Jackie Chan has let it be known how dangerous his stunts were. Chan always was one for letting the audience, especially the kids in the crowd, understand what he does has a price. I always found it laudable that he would make a point of demonstrating in the end credit sequences of his lighter films the bloopers wherein he incurred obvious injuries. He wanted to be sure others knew: when you try to run up a wall and flip over or slide through a small opening or jump kick or slid down a 5 story pole – things happen even to professionals and they get hurt. Chan has broken almost as many bones as has the daredevil motorcyclist Evil Knievel. OK that may be an exaggeration inasmuch as Knievel holds the world record for the most bones broken by a surviving human being at 433. But Chan has had broken bones, concussions, a slash with an unexpectedly unblunted sword, dislocated cheek bone, sternum, and pelvis (I didn't even know you could DO that!), and his thighs crushed between two cars. Chan even has a hole in his skull from a misadventure jumping to a tree in Armour of God. But Chan still is a pleasure to watch, performing martial arts with his signature balletic grace despite his age and previous injuries. Chan's  acrobatic martial arts in a fight scene is as much a thing of beauty as watching Mikhail Baryshnikov performing a grand jete .

The story of The Foreigner is fascinating and both of these men deserve big kudos for gutsy performances quite different from the meat and potatoes style most people have come to expect. And they do it well.

I have a friend, Stuart White, a retired journalist, who covered the appalling violence of what the Irish called "The Troubles" – that period of time when the Irish and English were constantly and mortally at each others throats – when terrorist attacks became so horribly prevalent that public trash cans vanished as too convenient for depositing bombs. Stuart wrote a brilliant book about an IRA terrorist called Shamrock Boy which was turned into a screenplay called Crossmaglen now in pre-production. While watching The Foreigner it felt like the same world, so from my limited perspective I can say The Foreigner came across to me with the power of tragic authenticity.

Go enter the dark labyrinthian world of The Foreigner, then come back with a new appreciation for the talents of the men we previously knew, respectively, as Pierce "Remington Steele" Brosnan and the comic martial arts master Jackie Chan.

There is realistic violence and some rough language and sexuality from the terrorists. And the human assault which begins the story is terrifying. So mid to late teens would be my minimum age and then only with parental attendance.