Every so often, preview screenings are double booked for me down here in America’s Vacationland. And my rule has always been, “Whoever reserved the date first, that’s whose movie I review opening day.”
And since “The Foreigner” stars Jackie Chan and seemed to have good early buzz, well it was a no-brainer. It got the review. “Happy Death Day,” which is a Blumhouse horror spin on “Before I Fall,” a not-bad thriller about a teen who has to relive her last day over and over again, I will get to later.
The thing about “early buzz” is the reviews that show up before the movie is widely previewed for critics are generally cherry-picked. Either a studio shows a picture to a friendly audience of fanboys and girls (at SXSW, for instance) or it sets up showings for “easy lay” critics who like everything.
Such was the case with “The Foreigner,” a dark, glum Jackie Chan thriller about the IRA and directed by an aged James Bond picture vet. It sat over 80% on Rottentomatoes Monday, got knocked down a few notches by my review Tuesday and went into free fall Thursday AM, when other reviews flooded in.
Like more and more films these days, it’s aimed at cashing with audiences in the lucrative World’s Largest Dictatorship market — China. China pandering is totally a thing, and this badly-acted “Man of Asia/Man of Peace confronts the Violent West” picture is very much an old dog’s dog — grizzled director, aged star who needs a LOT of editing to look like he’s doing all these amazing fights. And without his grin, his friendliness, his little shake-his-hand in pain after every punch, Chan is exposed as the limited martial arts clown he’s always been. He can’t act, or more precisely, has no range.
The picture should still do $10 million in the US. They’ve already made a fortune with it over in China.
The picture that I skipped is faring no better in reviews — maybe a smidge. But “Happy Death Day” figures to win the weekend box. $18+ says Box Office Mojo. Blumhouse is a pretty reliable brand for solid if derivative horror.
Will the good-not-great and over-praised “Blade Runner 2049” turn out to have legs, holding onto audience share its second, third and fourth weekends? Mojo says “No.” I could see it doing better than $16, maybe even $20ish. But there’s a reason it didn’t blow up in previews, and that it fell way off last Saturday after a big Friday. Audiences have not warmed up to it, and word of mouth is poor.
The best-reviewed pictures of the weekend are the bouncy-sad bio-pic “Professor Marston and the Wonder Women” and the rise of Thurgood Marshall bio-comedy “Marshall.” Both have tone issues (“Marston” has an alternative sexuality agenda that considering its star and director, is no big surprise), with “Marshall” setting a lot of laughs in the courtroom…of a RAPE trial. But thoroughly entertaining (truncated, slightly altered) history in both cases. Both should do $3-4 million in limited release.
Somebody needs to get a good children’s picture out before the lame “LEGO” movie and limp “Little Pony” run completely out of box office gas. The only people seeing “Pony” are the Pony-bros, “Bronies.” Apparently.