Jackie Chan takes a serious turn in the new film, The Foreigner, a film that came and went pretty fast in theaters. It has now graced us with its presence on DVD and On Demand. I have enjoyed some of Jackie Chan’s films and others, not so much. The goofier he gets the less interested I am. The films where there is a good balance of serious material and comedy could be found in the Rush Hour franchise and Shanghai Noon franchise. That is where I like Jackie Chan. Turning sixty-four in April he has no less than SEVEN films lined up for himself. He shows no sign of slowing down with sequels to The Karate Kid, another “Shanghai” film called Shanghai Dawn and one more Rush Hour. Whew.
The Foreigner is all serious and it works a serious film with a strong performance by Jackie Chan. He plays a humble restaurant owner whose daughter is killed in a terrorist bombing. Demanding results from the authorities in an almost unreasonable time frame, he sets his sights on Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan), a former IRA member who has supposedly mended his ways and now works for the British Government. Hennessy seems to know more than he is letting on, or does he? What follows is a taut but sometimes clustered story of revenge.
First off, Jackie Chan is terrific as a grieving father named Quan. There are several moments which hit me in the heart and seeing Chan’s weathered and wrinkled face really sold me he was a man almost completely overcome with anguish over the loss of his daughter. His demands are rebuffed by both the police and Hennessy. Without revealing anything further in the plot, what follows is a cat and mouse chase as Hennessy tries to stay one step ahead of Quan (Chan). Fans of Jackie Chan’s action prowess will not be disappointed, although there is not much of the “anything-and-everything-is-a-weapon”. The Foreigner tries to be more down-to-earth reality than some of Chan’s other films.
Of course, there are a number of cliches, one being that Quan is actually a former South Vietnamese special forces soldier trained by America during the Vietnam War. So he is an expert with weapons, explosives, gathering intel and evading capture. On the flip side, I found it hard to believe that a man as shady as Hennessy would even be appointed or elected to a political office. In addition to that, Hennessy is having an affair and does not seem to want to hide it as he galavants from high-society eatery to high-society eatery. There is a multitude of characters that come and go mostly from Hennessy’s goon squad. One is his own brother who has his own dark secret. One character is a young woman who is given some gravity to the story but even by film’s end, I did not know who or what she was to the story except another miscreant.
It was these kinds of issues with the story that kept me from liking The Foreigner more than I did. Director Martin Campbell, who is no stranger to action films having directed two James Bond films, Goldeneye (also starring Pierce Brosnan) and Casino Royale (Daniel Craig’s first turn as 007) and the action in The Foreigner is crisp and exciting. The script and the story, though are disjointed and a bit baffling. The characters are thin and indistinguishable from one another and it detracts from the energy of the film. But Cliff Martinez punches up the action with another amazing score as he always does.
Fans of Jackie Chan will, more than likely not be disappointed with the action of The Foreigner. His performance, as well as Pierce Brosnan, make formidable foes and when the film is on those two, alone, it works. When it veers off with underdeveloped characters and their stories, The Foreigner sputters and stalls. Kudos to the filmmakers for trying to make not just another mindless action picture. But the script, based on the book, The Chinaman, penned by Steven Leather who helped scriptwriter David Marconi in the adaptation to the big screen, flounders on characters that are not developed or are the least bit interesting. Overall, The Foreigner is a mixed bag but ultimately, ends up as disappointing as it is entertaining.
The Foreigner – **3/4 out of 5
The Foreigner – Rated R for language, graphic violence, gore and sexual situations
The Foreigner – Runtime is 113 minutes
The Foreigner is now available on DVD, On Demand and pay subscriptions services. Check your local area for availability and pricing.