Hot Take: An old school thriller with a better than expected performance from Jackie Chan… and he still delivers on the action side at 63!
When you go into a film like The Foreigner starring Jackie Chan with Pierce Brosnan as the main supporting actor, some expectations are set. Chan, throughout his career, has delivered some impressive action thrills and occasionally added a little comedic elements to his films. In The Foreigner, surprisingly, it’s his dramatic performance that is most noticeable although there’s still some incredibly noticeable stunt work from the 63-year-old performer. For Brosnan, it’s been a mixed bag as his career has run the gamut. It includes a turn at James Bond and both Golden Globe and Golden Raspberry nominations. So, with him, you kind of have to expect his performance to match the film around him. Luckily, The Foreigner is actually better than you might expect… and darker, as Chan plays a Chinese man whose daughter is killed in a bombing in London and Brosnan plays a politically savvy former IRA member who might hold the key to the identity of the bomber.
Chan’s Quan seeks answers and revenge for the death of his daughter and seeks out Brosnan’s Hennessy to learn the identity of the men who were behind the atrocity. Quan is the owner of a Chinese restaurant but also a retired Vietnam veteran who was a Special Forces soldier and pressures Hennessy by bombing his office building and threatens he won’t stop until he learns the names of the bombers. And he doesn’t. He follows Hennessy to a safe house in Belfast and takes out many of Hennessy’s bodyguards while setting off more explosives to further rattle Hennessy. Finally, Hennessy reveals to Quan a plan to gain the names of the bombers and hopefully get him what he wants.
It’s mostly a game of cat and mouse but Quan usually has the upper hand although Chan’s willingness to sacrifice his body for an impressive stunt comes in very handy here as Quan often narrowly escapes from Hennessy’s protection detail. The film itself has very good pacing and never dwells too much to get boring. It stretches the plot at times but still survives its 114 minute run time without overstaying its welcome. There’s a complexity to the story as Chan’s character is the darker side of a hero and almost an anti-hero as he resorts to vigilanteism to push Hennessy to reveal all he knows and Hennessy also appears to be morally complex and compromised. It’s a tick above your average action-thriller which makes for a mildly entertaining film that exceeds expectations.
The film’s biggest flaw is how often The Foreigner relies on exposition-heavy scenes to shed its action-thriller outer shell and try to be something more than it is. Occasionally, it works but it does grow a little tiresome after the third or fourth time Brosnan overacts his way through the story. It also feels like it does everything it can to avoid the campiness of the typical Chan flick and it makes sense considering the gravity of the plot but even Quan’s interaction with his daughter Fan (Katie Leung) right before the bombing is more serious than it needs to be. These minor flaws don’t prevent the film from being a watchable, intriguing and unexpectedly better than the film appears to be on paper stretching both Chan and Brosnan to the limits of their on-screen ability.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
- A Dramatic Chan
Chan’s dramatic turn actually works. Stripped of any comic elements (but not the action that made him a star), Chan delivers an occasionally emotional performance as a grief-stricken father seeking retribution for the loss of his daughter.
- Good Brosnan
Let’s be real here. Pierce Brosnan has a habit of turning in a stinker of a performance from time to time. With The Foreigner, that isn’t the case.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- Exposition Heavy
Whenever the film reaches a point where you might not buy what it’s trying to sell, expect an exposition-heavy scene to slam down on you and force feed whatever you might be skeptical on. This happens frequently when the film sells Chan’s humble everyman as a former military man who might be more than appears on the surface.