by Charles Kirkland Jr.
Jackie Chan channels his inner Neeson in The Foreigner.
Quan (Jackie Chan) is a small, simple man. He is a single father, dedicated to caring for his daughter above all else. But when his daughter is senselessly killed in a bomb blast, Quan changes into something incredibly different. Rebuffed and dismissed by the police, Quan, fueled by a need for justice, focuses his sights on Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan) a former IRA leader. When Hennessy also tells Quan that he has no idea who the bombers are, Quan starts to enact his revenge upon him.
First off, let’s just say that Jackie Chan is old. In this movie, they make a point of showing and telling that Quan is old too. More than once it is said that Quan is in his sixties. His makeup, his gait, and his voice convey nothing but age. Despite his age though, Chan manages to kick some serious butt in this movie. Clearly, he still does his own stunts in this movie which is probably why he has not had a big budget action movie since Chinese Zodiac in 2012. Chan winces with sincerity as he tumbles but, there is still the familiar Jackie Chan magic as he moves. In the past, Chan had successfully been able to mix humor with his fighting to entertain but in this movie, his action has a darker, mean and intentional feel to it which is perfect for the role.
The humor in this movie comes from Chan’s lines. Quan is insistent on getting the names of the bombers and after he is turned away with no answers by Hennessy, Quan simply says you will change your mind. With each creative way he finds to ask for the names of the bombers, it reminds you of Home Alone‘s Kevin asking the Wet Bandits if they’ve had enough or even the paperboy asking for his two dollars in Better Off Dead.
The most entertaining parts of the movie, however, are limited to the interactions between Chan and Brosnan. Unfortunately, the interactions between Brosnan and his cronies and ex-IRA friends and even his wife are boring and at some points a little incredulous. Speaking of which, why wait until halfway into the movie to show that Chan’s character has some military training? Some of the disbelief of the action in the movie would be removed if there were even a hint of Quan’s training nearer the beginning of the movie. And why does Quan’s special training have to be American? If the IRA can be responsible for a bombing and not Al-Qaeda, isn’t it possible that another country including China have special training?
Director Martin Campbell returns to familiar ground he has created in the Mel Gibson-helmed feature Edge of Darkness. In fact, Chan’s Quan seems to feed off of the same dark energy that fueled Gibson’s Craven in Edge of Darkness, the aging specialist who is looking for justice (and a little revenge) and doesn’t mind being violent to get it. This is a fairly new theme for Campbell who has been cultivating through his work in the James Bond franchise and the Banderas Zorro films.
If it seems that there are many references to other movies here, it is because the movie is very familiar. Similarities to The Foreigner can be seen in a wide variety of movies like Taken and John Wick. While the revenge motivation is common, The foreigner attempts to infuse comedic elements to make it different. Unfortunately, instead of different, it is just laughable.
Rated R for violence, language, and some sexual material, The Foreigner is an above average romp that is anything but foreign. While it looks like something we’ve seen before, it’s delightful to see Jackie Chan up to his old tricks again. Maybe that makes all the difference.