The Foreigner puts Jackie Chan in a violent, R-rated thriller. What? Happy, smiling Chan in a deep drama? It’s true. The film gives Chan a different and very serious look, and one that may not set well with some of his fans. It does, however, seem to be a pretty good fit to me.
In fact, Chan should have done this sooner.
Set in present time, Chan is Quan, a Chinese immigrant living in London who takes his daughter to buy a dress at a shop next to a bank. A new arm of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) bombs the bank, and in the process the daughter and several others are killed.
Pierce Brosnan’s Liam Hennessy is the IRA representative for the British government and the head of a group former IRA leaders. With the uneasy peace broken, the government wants the names of the new terrorists and puts the squeeze on him to get them.
Quan does the same thing. He wants revenge and figures out that Hennessy is the key to his plans to kill the terrorists. Quan, too, wants the names and plays a cat and mouse game with Hennessy to get them.
The Foreigner is a dark drama. There are no laughs. Chan does no flashy can’t-help-but-love-him smiles. This role is straight ahead drama and gives him a chance to stretch a bit, and shine in a totally different type of genre. He’s very good.
So is this film.
While they don’t share many scenes, Chan and Brosnan are very much connected in the story and their chemistry — together or not — is exceptional.
The acting of the entire cast is terrific, but the film’s focus is the two stars. Brosnan is mostly known for doing the suavest of the — other than maybe Roger Moore — James Bonds. While playing Bond doesn’t require going that deep, Brosnan is more than just a pretty face. Those who’ve followed his career and have seen him in films that haven’t been Hollywood blockbusters, know he has serious acting chops.
His constantly voiced intensity is the perfect counter to Chan’s non-verbal, cold, calculating predator. Brosnan’s Hennessy is caught in a vice, and every move and counter move ratchets up the tension. Hennessy is not the least bit likable, and you have no sympathy. Chan’s Quan is sympathetic and relatable.
That balance and counterbalance — along with a pretty good story, and some great storytelling from writer David Marconi (Live Free Die Hard, Enemy of the State and Casino Royale) and Brosnan’s Goldeneye director, Martin Campbell — make this one of the best thrillers to come along in a long time.
Chan, however, owns the film. Normally, he is in goofy comedies that blend in just a dash of drama for effect. Some will argue with me on this, but I think Chan is maybe the best athlete I’ve ever seen. It’s what makes him so popular. All his films are packed with ought-to-be patented, close-to-impossible stunts. No one — maybe other than Hollywood silent film stunt stud Harold Lloyd — has ever done more creative and funny action sequences.
There are Chan stunts aplenty in this one, so you won’t find The Foreigner all that foreign. Chan’s acting and that of Brosnan is a great change of pace in a film that’s a nice change of pace from the average action-thriller.
Movie name: ‘The Foreigner’
Director: Martin Campbell
Stars: Jackie Chan, Pierce Brosnan, Charlie Murphy, Orla Brady, Rufus Jones
Mr. Movie rating: 4 stars
Rated R for violence, language. It’s playing at the Fairchild Cinemas Pasco and Queensgate 12s, AMC Kennewick and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen.
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it’s your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 stars to 1 star: Don’t bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.