The Foreigner Movie Review
This is what happens when the director of two of the best James Bond movies gets to make a Jackie Chan film.
I don’t know exactly when I divorced Chan - he of epic and fun action blitzes with stilted if not dubbed dialogue and ridiculous, over-the-top stunts - but it was probably around the time of Rush Hour 3, when Hollywood continued to fail to take advantage of the talented actor’s skill set and it became evident that Chan, a little older and a little creakier, wasn’t capable of performing the stunts and action pieces that had made him so successful in the first place.
He’s made several movies over the last decade, I’m sure, but has largely drifted out of the American spotlight. The Foreigner, the new movie from Martin Campbell (Casino Royale), likely won’t change that, but the movie is a satisfyingly gritty revenge thriller that treats Chan as the aging badass he is.
Chan plays a “Chinaman” whose daughter is inadvertently killed by an IRA splinter group in London. While at first glance he appears to be nothing more than an emotionally wrecked old man, it soon becomes obvious that the IRA messed with the wrong guy - and that he’ll do anything to avenge his daughter’s killers.
Campbell pits Chan, who, though unable to completely shrug off some of his overly theatrical acting tendencies, gives a fiercely strong performance, against Pierce Brosnan (Campbell also directed Goldeneye), who offers up his best performance in ages. As emotionally wicked as Chan is here - he’s the protagonist who is impossible to hate, but who doesn’t hesitate to kill, maim, or bomb when needed - Brosnan chews up scenery with a delightfully complex performance in which he fluctuates between good, bad and somewhere in between, often in the blink of an eye. He’s not your traditional villain, if you can even call him that, and it’s a blast to watch.
Dark but not humorless, violent but not overly so, The Foreigner itself is a blast, thanks to Campbell’s eye for action, his proper utilization of Jackie Chan, and an absorbing story about terrorists that refreshingly have nothing to do with Islam. The movie doesn’t present an onslaught of action but rather bursts of violence, and each moment of punching, shooting, kicking and exploding will bring a smile to your face.
The story, reminiscent of Patriot Games if only for its focus on Irish dissidents, is fun to watch as screenwriter David Marconi, working from the book “The Chinaman” by Stephen Leather, winds and weaves his way through Irish politics and simmering resentment pushed to the point of explosiveness. The plot sometimes stumbles - between extramarital affairs, similar-looking /underdeveloped Irishmen and some shaky explanations as to why people are betraying others, it doesn’t always gel - but Campbell’s fast-paced narrative and the work by Chan and Brosnan largely gloss over any weaknesses.
The Foreigner isn’t perfect, but it’s a punch-you-in-the-face return to western cinema for Jackie Chan that best not be overlooked.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.