Film Review – The Foreigner
Jackie Chan is back! Not that he ever went anywhere, but it has been a while since he was in a non-animated film that has received this much fanfare. The Foreigner is a mix of action and drama, one that does not solely focus on Jackie Chan, the action star.
The Foreigner centers on Quan (Jackie Chan), a Chinese restaurant owner in London, who falls victim to being in the wrong place at the wrong time. His only remaining daughter, Fan (Katie Leung), is killed in a dress shop bombing while Quan is outside. The “Authentic IRA” claims responsibility for the bombing and the hunt is on for the culprits. Quan is unrelenting with the London police as he wants the name of the bombers to exact his revenge. The problem is that the police don’t know who did it, and they are leaning on the Northern Ireland government to assist with finding the bombers. The face of the government is Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan), and as soon as Quan finds out about him, he begins to lean on Hennessy for information. With nothing to lose and no family left to care for, Quan sets out for Belfast to further hunt for the bombers.
It is an interesting film to be a Jackie Chan starrer. It is not solely an action film, as it is more about revenge and finding out who the bombers are. However, there are enough scenes of Quan beating up and escaping those under Hennessy’s thumb to satisfy those searching for a great action film. Chan is in his 60s, and the non-stop fighting scenes may no longer be possible for him. What this film does is give him a dramatic outlet, one that he is pretty good at as he carries more than half of the film. With some grey hair, his fighting scenes come off as realistic as he wins some and loses others. What makes Quan an interesting character is his background, one that makes him a bit smarter than the Irish lads protecting Hennessy, his land, and his family. With his backstory and where he came from makes all the cunning ploys for information believable. This is not some restaurateur that woke up one day and knew how to fight.
The other side of the story is played out by Liam Hennessy, who struggles to maintain his cool about not knowing what is going on with this new IRA group. Formerly associated with the IRA, he must dredge up old acquaintances to figure out the situation. The film is vague on if Hennessy is in on any of it, or he is just a cog in the IRA game to trudge up violence to get what they want. Most of the questions about Hennessy’s motivations are wrapped up by the end. He is equally a leader as well as a guy that has no clue what he is up against in regards to Quan. He continually underestimates Quan to the point that it is laughable. Pierce Brosnan does a decent Irish accent and plays the conflicted Hennessy well, infusing his character with respect but then equal frustration and perplexion of the situation he continually finds himself.
While Hennessy’s security team or thugs include the actors Michael McElhatton (Game of Thrones) and Stephen Hogan (The Tudors), it is worth mentioning the relative newcomer Rory Fleck Byrne who plays Hennessy’s nephew, Sean Morrison. He is a mysterious character, one that has enough pull and stature in Hennessy’s organization to be called in from NYC. His motivations and his backstory are revealed as the film progresses. Byrne can carry a scene with both Pierce Brosnan and Jackie Chan while doing an action scene with the former. It is a remarkable feat to be transfixed by a supporting performance, but Byrne can do just that. I look forward to seeing this actor in future roles.
The Foreigner is not an action film. While there are certainly action sequences, it is a film that has a dramatic plot and keeps you guessing on at least one plot point. Considering it is based on a novel, “The Chinaman,” by Stephen Leather, it is not solely a vehicle for Jackie Chan and those wanting it to be that will be disappointed. This is a “grown-up” Jackie Chan film with some substance and dramatic flair. Chan has proven with this film that he can be more than an action star and has the dramatic chops to share a scene with Pierce Brosnan. The film itself surprises at being not what is expected and, in the end, is an entertaining film.