Jackie Chan is one of my favorite actors. I watched many of his films for his humor and his style of martial arts. They are always a hit with me. When I learned about this film, I was surprised to learn he was doing a serious role and curious to see how it would work. While the movie is a traditional suspense, the action is thrilling and Jackie Chan is brilliant as the protagonist.
Jackie Chan plays a Ngoc Minh Quan, a former Navy seal, now a London restaurant owner who seeks justice after his daughter is killed in an IRA bombing. He is unstoppable in trying to find out who killed his daughter and eventually, his questions lead him to Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan), a former IRA member turned British government official, deputy minister of Ireland. Liam is engaged in his own hunt for the bombers, trying to locate the person giving information to the group, suspecting someone in his own organization. Quan pursues a cat and mouse game with him to find the identities of the killers, threatening him and planting bombs in Liam’s offices and car.
While Liam deals with Quan, he also must answer to his superior, British consul Katherine Davies (Lia Williams) who he presses to get pardons for former IRA members. He works a deal with Commander Richard Bromley (Ray Fearon) to set a trap for the bombers but Quan keeps up his relentless pursuit of the truth, certain that Liam’s past holds the key to finding the elusive killers. Liam sends men to chase down Quan but it is a race to discover who will win, Quan or Liam.
While the story does incorporate the premise of the former fighter being drawn into the conflict by a death, The Foreigner does so in a much more connected and realistic fashion than other films I’ve seen such as Taken. The plot gets increasingly complex once Liam Hennessy is introduced, taking off with the struggle between Quan and Hennessy. Every detail connects to the main story, tying together by the end of the film. I suggest paying attention, everything ends up being important, even a glance between characters.
One of the elements I liked the most in the plot was the realistic view of the IRA. In the film, it is a new breed that wants to cause conflict and havoc, young men who haven’t bled for peace. I especially liked was what it took to reach peace with Britain and the tension that brought to the conflict in the film. The viewpoint of the Irish characters was authentic and truthful to their struggles while still managing to condemn terrorism against the innocent. That aspect of the story was well balanced with the overall theme of justice.
The action and fight sequences were well done, exactly what you expect to see from any film Jackie Chan is part of. The shots made it difficult to tell which stunts Jackie Chan did versus any stunt doubles. Rather than the action driving the story, the story drove the need for the fight scenes and each action that Quan takes brings to life another piece of what he needs to know, what he needs to do to seek his revenge.
This movie brings us a completely different version of Jackie Chan, one in which he is understated, emotional and realistic in his fighting sequences. He infuses Quan with a palpable grief and a desire for revenge, a relentlessness that brings the character to life. The action and his fighting are clearly his normal style of martial arts but with an edge of realism to them, incorporating traps and tricks that bring to mind Vietnam sappers. His characterization is what drives the plot and kept me engaged in the movie, to see if he will get the truth and find revenge. While it is surreal to see him humorless, his performance is more nuanced and powerful than I’ve ever seen and perfect for the character.
That brings me to Pierce Brosnan, who I’ve loved since “Remington Steele”. He’s a politician who wants to keep power and stay elected. He’s grown a beard, gotten older but he still has a powerful presence. It is clear that while his character might be seeking the truth, it is less for justice and more to manage the fallout with the British government. Brosnan plays his character as brutal and self-serving. I didn’t like the character but admired the performance. He is credible as a former IRA member which builds the authenticity of the story. His acting is incredible.
While the plot is complex, it was predictable. Despite enjoying the film, I knew what most of the characters were going to do before they did it. There were few surprises, I knew what Quan would do as well as the bombers. It was so well acted, though, that that didn’t detract from the story or end up being boring. The action was quick and the resolution made it worth both the length of the film and the predictability.
If you like an old-fashioned suspense with two great actors, Jackie Chan and Pierce Brosnan, I recommend this movie. Don’t expect Jackie’s typical humor (he is very serious in his role), he is emotional and poignant in this role. Pierce Brosnan is dynamic and commanding in his performance. I loved the action and fights, loved the authenticity to the characters and want to see more of Jackie Chan playing characters like this one.
Rating: 4 stars
The Foreigner, starring Jackie Chan and Pierce Brosnan, is a timely action thriller from the director of Casino Royale. The film tells the story of humble London businessman Quan (Chan), whose long-buried past erupts in a revenge-fueled vendetta when the only person left for him to love — his teenage daughter — is taken from him in a senseless act of politically-motivated terrorism. In his relentless search for the identity of the terrorists, Quan is forced into a cat-and-mouse conflict with a British government official (Brosnan), whose own past may hold clues to the identities of the elusive killers.
Cast: Jackie Chan, Pierce Brosnan, Katie Leung, Rufus Jones
Director: Martin Campbell
Writers: Screenplay by David Marconi. Based on the Novel “The Chinaman” by Stephen Leather