6 out of 10
Jackie Chan as Quan Ngoc Minh
Directed by Martin Campbell
The Foreigner Review:
Quan Ngoc Minh and his teenage daughter Fan live a quiet life in London, but one day their happiness is destroyed when a terrorist bomb explodes and kills Fan. Left without any more family, Quan is absolutely devastated.
His deep sorrow soon turns towards a desire for justice and he demands answers. Quan repeatedly presses the police for information to no avail. While a splinter group from the Irish Republican Army claims responsibility, nobody knows exactly who they are.
With the investigation seemingly deadlocked, Quan takes matters into his own hands. He targets politician Liam Hennessy, a former member of the IRA. Quan believes Hennessy knows who killed his daughter and he will stop at nothing until he gets their names.
The Foreigner is rated R for violence, language and some sexual material.
I was pretty interested in seeing The Foreigner for several reasons. First of all, I love Jackie Chan and his crazy stunts. Second, I think Pierce Brosnan is great. And third, director Martin Campbell has done a number of films I’ve really loved, such as GoldenEye, Casino Royale, and The Mask of Zorro. (He also did the terrible Green Lanter”, so that must be taken into consideration.) While The Foreigner is not the best film for any of these talents, it’s still a solid revenge story worth watching.
While Jackie Chan is best known for comedic roles, here he is serious. Very, very serious. He spends most of the movie looking sad and staring vacantly off in the distance. When his character finally does hit his wit’s end and he starts seeking revenge, it’s entirely believable. And when he starts showing dangerous skills from his mysterious past, Chan makes it equally believable. It’s a solid performance from the beloved actor and an interesting side excursion for his career.
If Jackie Chan is in a film, you expect some cool action. While there isn’t as much action as you might hope, there are three memorable fight scenes where Chan takes on seemingly impossible odds and emerges bruised but victorious. One is a fight down a stairwell in a bed and breakfast against multiple IRA thugs. Another scene features a memorable gunfight that shows the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s action star still has it.
Pierce Brosnan is also in fine form as Liam Hennessy, a former IRA terrorist turned politician. Seeing him torn between his terrorist roots and his benefits of being a UK politician is interesting. Liam is pressed from all sides by everyone from his wife to Quan. Seeing him flip out is deeply satisfying and Brosnan makes a villain you’re happy to root against.
The supporting cast is solid with Orla Brady delivering a memorable performance as Liam’s wife and Irish actress Charlie Murphy as Liam’s mistress. The two are some of the most dangerous and underestimated characters in the film.
What Didn’t Work:
Something weird happened at the screening I attended. First off, people brought young children though it was an R-rated film. Then every time Quan knocked someone out, they laughed hysterically though it was intended to be a dramatic moment. I then realized they were laughing because they seemed to think they were watching a comedic Jackie Chan performance. It was very strange seeing such a large audience completely miss the tone of the film. I wonder if it’s going to hurt The Foreigner as people misjudge the book by its cover.
I already mentioned the action. Though there are some great fight scenes in it, the film could have used a little more. There are long stretches of not much happening and it does get a tad boring.
The Foreigner feels like a contemporary film as it addresses the topic of terrorism in London. However, it feels slightly PC since the terrorists are IRA bombers rather than Muslim extremists, which would have been more realistic. I suppose Chan, Brosnan, and Campbell didn’t want to be targets of terrorists, but at the same time it feels like someone took the original script and simply did a word replacement from “ISIS” to “IRA.” It felt like they missed an opportunity to draw a real differentiation by foreigners who wish to harm people and those who are victims like everyone else. They opted for the safe route, but maybe that’s what it took to get it the green light.
The Bottom Line:
While I don’t think this is a film that’s required viewing on the big screen, it’s a solid thriller and worth checking out if you’re a fan of Jackie Chan or Pierce Brosnan. At the very least it’s worth a rental down the line.