An uneven but ultimately satisfying return for the ever-talented Jackie Chan. It won’t be a wasted ticket, though it’ll be just as good on premium cable/streaming.
The Good: Jackie Chan and Pierce Brosnan.
If you haven’t seen one of Jackie Chan’s Hong Kong films, you really should. While America knows him as the “funny Asian” from Rush hour and Shanghai Noon, Chan has had an incredibly prolific international career in both drama and action. The Foreigner is the closest Hollywood has gotten.
Chan plays both grieving and hard-hitting total-war-revenge father. But best of all, he’s able to use the fantastic set of stunt and fighting skills he has honed over his long career. Hollywood action films tend to use quick cuts in action to convey speed and skill. Director Martin Campbell (Casino Royale) and cinematographer David Tattersall (Star Wars prequels) chose to keep the camera with Chan, letting those skills shine.
Another comeback of sorts is Pierce Brosnan, who gives a moving and nuanced performance as a former IRA member turned politician. His execution brings an emotional depth and sincerity to the role that would’ve been easy to miss.
The Bad: Kind of everything else.
It’s really not a bad film at all. Just confusing. The marketing for the film, and it’s first act, emphasize that this is Chan’s movie; his Taken, basically. But half the film is dedicated to exploring Brosnan’s character, relationships, and backstory. In the end, he gets far more development than Chan.
This confuses whose story it really is. Is Chan seeking revenge for his daughters death? Or is Brosnan dealing with a rogue IRA cell that happened to kill Chan’s daughter?
Given that Chan was the supposed headliner and target of the marketing, it’s not hard to wish this had been two separate films, telling the same story from two different and interesting perspectives.
The Ugly: A surprisingly nuanced look at complex issues
I think for most American millennials, the IRA is an unknown quantity. We grew up in a time when their conflict was not as relevant for American media.
So it’s hard to tell whether it’s dealt with in a sensitive or appropriate way in The Foreigner. At the least, the film certainly gives depth to each “side.” This is often missing from Hollywood films that use extremist groups as the antagonists. Future productions should take note.
“A London businessman named Quan (Jackie Chan) is devastated when his daughter is killed in a terrorist attack. He seeks revenge against those responsible, and his pursuit soon leads him to a shady British politico (Pierce Brosnan) with ties to the terrorist organization. Directed by Martin Campbell (GoldenEye, Casino Royale).” ~ Jack Rodgers, Rovi