THE FOREIGNER [R] B-
The new thriller from Martin Campbell (“Casino Royale”) finds the amiable Energizer Bunny of action-comedy Jackie Chan taking a serious turn down the road to vengeance paved by Liam Neeson in the “Taken” franchise with more of a geo-political focus. When Chan’s seeming Everyman loses his daughter in an IRA affiliate terrorist attack in England, he uses his long-buried elite military training to pressure a complicit government official (Pierce Brosnan) to help him uncover the truth. With all of the political melodrama percolating in the mix, the avenging father element gets lost in the shuffle, but i t is fascinating to watch the sixty-plus Chan dig into his masterful bag of physical tricks, while burying his expressively joyous persona. Rarely do we get to see him act and dispense beat-downs at the same time, but he’s done hiding this talent and is ready to give it a go. Neeson and the world of bad guys on the scene better get ready for a new player on the field.
HAPPY DEATH DAY [PG-13] C
While the premise of Christopher Landon’s new horror-thriller feels a bit overstuffed – I described it as “Scream” meets “Before I Fall” (which was a hip teen version of “Mean Girls” meets “Groundhog’s Day”) – at its core, “Happy Death Day” is about an unpleasant character (Jessica Rothe), a self-absorbed college student who, on her birthday, faces a challenging opportunity. Fate grants her a shot at redemption, a daily reboot, which she uses to discover who wants her dead and to make herself a better person. Blumhouse Productions, the team behind “Get Out” and “Split,” plays the story for the broad hijinks and creates a light and mildly entertaining piece of disposable escapist fare.
MARSHALL [PG-13] B
Chadwick Boseman has cornered the market on African American historic figures. Having rousingly brought Jackie Robinson (“42”) and James Brown (“Get On Up”) to life, he’s going for a hat trick in Reginald Hudlin’s “Marshall,” embodying the charismatic and forceful Civil Rights lawyer Thurgood Marshall long before his legendary time as the country’s first African American Supreme Court Justice or even his career-defining work as head council for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, where he spearheaded Brown v Board of Education, which ended school segregation. The true revolutionary stroke of genius here is the decision by screenwriters Jacob and Michael Koskoff to not go with Brown v. Board of Education. Getting to see Marshall before that signature case and appreciate his undeniable confidence so close to the start of his career, is the perfect introduction to the man, in what would otherwise be a pedestrian tale. That Hudlin’s movie seems ordinary in every way allows for Marshall’s extraordinary, larger than life persona to captivate us all the more.