Review: The Foreigner (2017)

Jackie Chan plays- get this- a Chinese-born, U.S. trained special forces guy and British citizen, who has vengeance on his mind after his beloved daughter is killed in a bomb blast in London. The culprits are a group dubbing themselves ‘The Authentic IRA’, and Chan looks to former IRA/Sinn Fein guy turned British government figure Pierce Brosnan for names. Brosnan tries to dismiss the guy from his cushy little office. Wrong move, as the 60ish Chan nonetheless has zero problems overpowering Brosnan’s guards. This dude’s not going to give up. Meanwhile, Brosnan appears to know at least something of what has happened. Orla Brady plays Brosnan’s bitter wife who thinks he’s gone soft. Michael McElhatton is Brosnan’s right-hand man.

No, not the impenetrable and awful Steven Seagal globe-trotter, but a mixture of Jackie Chan vengeance drama and IRA movie from 2017. Directed by Martin Campbell (the slightly overrated “GoldenEye”) from a screenplay by David Marconi (the excellent, if hyper “Enemy of the State”), it’s imperfect but more enjoyable than I had anticipated going in. It’s interesting to find Jackie Chan in such grim, serious, and…well, European surrounds. It’s a bit ambitious than the usual from him, and he shows very early on that he’s got the acting chops necessary to hold up his end. In fact, his performance may be the film’s chief asset. He’s not anywhere near as squeaky clean as usual, he’s incredibly grim and unafraid to use IRA-like tactics on a smaller scale to get his point across. This guy wants answers, wants justice, and he’s not fucking around about it. In fact, after suffering a terrible loss, the guy has no more fucks to give. Chan does the grieving/vengeful father thing quite well, actually. I’m not sure we needed that trademark Chan scene of stunt/fight work with Mr. McElhatton. It’s a bit unnecessary to this film. I also could’ve done without the scene where Chan re-enacts the wound-cauterising scene from “First Blood” whilst having flashbacks. WTF? 

Laying on a thick Northern Irish accent, Brosnan (who is from Ireland, not Northern Ireland) is well-cast as a former IRA man turned British government guy. So acting is clearly not the film’s problem. In fact, if it does have a flaw, it’s that Chan spends way too much screen time fucking with the wrong people. The film ought to be shorter and quicker.

It’s no world-beater, but for a film about one of my least favourite subjects (Northern Ireland politics/terrorism), this is actually quite good. Jackie Chan can act, Pierce Brosnan is well-used, and most of the supporting cast are fine too. The film is worth a look, in fact it may be one of Chan’s best films.

Rating: B-


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