By: BabyRuth (Three Beers) –
You guys, Jackie Chan is back in a new movie! He’s starring as wronged father out for vengeance! And he has a very particular set of skills. Skills he has acquired over a very long career. And Pierce Brosnan is the bad guy with an exaggerated Irish accent!
Jackie Chan is an international treasure. I know I was psyched when I heard about this movie. It’s been a while since we’ve seen him (I conveniently forgot about that Karate Kid remake- THAT HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH KARATE) and the idea of the 63-year old actor laying out bad guys half his age with inventively choreographed stunt-work definitely sounds like a whole lot of fun.
But The Foreigner is not a whole lot of fun. At least not “fun” in the way most would expect a Jackie Chan movie to be (or the way the trailers for this film make it appear). Instead, we get a gritty political thriller that happens to have Chan in it.
Quan (Chan) is a widowed restaurant owner living in London with his teenage daughter Fan (Katie Leung). Don’t get too attached to Fan—in the film’s first scene she enters a clothing store seconds before a bomb is detonated at a nearby bank. A group called the Authentic IRA (Irish Republican Army) takes responsibility for the incident. The grieving Quan then becomes obsessed with learning the names of the members who carried out the attack.
After several attempts to the London police go nowhere, Quan begins to hound Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan), the Irish Deputy Minister and former-IRA member, convinced he must know something.
At first Hennessy shrugs off the persistent little man, seeing him as nothing more than a nuisance who won’t stop calling and showing up at his office. That is until Quan starts taking some more, um, drastic measures to get the official’s attention. You know, like setting off his own series of explosions in Hennessy’s office and remote vacation home. Pretty much the usual…
Turns out Quan knows some stuff and Hennessy realizes he just may have underestimated him.
Spoiler Alert: There is a dog. At one point you think something terrible has happened. But come on, Jackie Chan would never kill a dog. Not even mad-as-hell/emo Jackie Chan. The dog is fine. We even see it in a later scene just in case there was any doubt.
Sorry, I just had to get that out of the way. There is actually more to toast than that.
The Foreigner is a very well-made (especially impressive given the estimated budget of only $35,000,000) and well-acted film. It’s also a nice reunion between director Martin Campbell and Pierce Brosnan (who last worked together when Campbell directed GoldenEye in 1995).
Though Chan’s character is a long-retired from fighting restaurateur, hence a much, slower, less-coordinated version of the Chan most audiences are familiar with, he still gets to showcase his skills in a few solid fight sequences.
It’s great to see Jackie Chan attempt to branch out with more serious work. It’s a smart move considering the stage of his career. But aside from looking, really, really sad and also really, really tired, and repeatedly asking in a low voice for the names of the bad guys, there isn’t much to see.
He’s really trying though…he’s acting. He does effectively portray a broken-down man with nothing more to lose, it would just be nice if there were more to it. I do hope he continues to explore more dramatic fare, but hopefully whatever that may be will give him a chance to expand his talents while still allowing his natural charisma (nowhere to be seen here) to shine through.
The film is based on a 1992 novel called “The Chinaman” (the film’s title was changed to the more generic, but much less racist-sounding The Foreigner) by Stephen Leather, which I’m sure is an intense page-turner best absorbed over time (and with the option to go back and re-read portions). However, condensing a story with so many sub-plots, twist, backstories, and political history (with which the audience is expected to already be familiar) into a film with a 114 minute run-time appears to have presented a challenge as it all feels very overstuffed, over-written, and convoluted.
At the same time, it’s slow-moving with long stretches of expository dialogue. The tone is dark, and dour, and every scene has that gray-blueish tint because It’s Serious Dammit! It’s a bit of a chore to get through. Maybe it’s my own fault for going to a 10PM show and drinking a glass of wine during it, but at times I felt my eyes taking extended blinks. Thankfully, the action sequences are a welcome break.
I was more emotionally-invested in the fate of that cushion than anything that happened in The Foreigner. (Note: I admit I totally requested doing the review for this movie for the sole reason of somehow incorporating this video.)
For Jackie Chan’s big, dramatic comeback, he sure isn’t in it much. He disappears into the woods (literally) for a good twenty-plus minute chunk mid-film and the focus shifts to Brosnan’s character. I’d argue that Hennessy, not Quan, is the actual main character.
In fact, the whole revenge plot feels tacked on. It could have been omitted entirely and had no effect on the main story.
While I wouldn’t recommend running to the theater to see The Foreigner, it’s still a decent VOD choice. Just don’t expect to see the Jackie Chan you know and love. Wait for Rush Hour 4 for that.
The Foreigner (2017) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: whenever Quan asks for The Names (take two if it is written)
Take a Drink: every time a character rolls their eyes at Quan’s persistence
Take a Drink: whenever someone says “Chinaman” (apparently too offensive to keep as the title, but not too much to include several mentions of, despite the fact that Quan is Vietnamese)
Take a Drink: for every double-cross
Take a Drink: whenever Pierce Brosnan’s character does (there’s a lot of these, he’s Irish after all!)
Do a Shot: for every explosion