Starring: Jackie Chan, Pierce Brosnan
Director: Martin Campbell
Running Time: 113 Minutes
Rating: R for Frequent Explosions, Booby-Trap Puncture Wounds, and a Bit of Scheme-Based Shagging
Release Date: October 13, 2017
At age 63, Jackie Chan is still allowed to shimmy down roofs, walls, and pipes. And good for him, because while what he pulls off stunt-wise in The Foreigner is nowhere near as relentless as his early films, his twists, spins, and rolls still look like the most natural things in the world for him to be doing. But this revenge thriller places a new skill at the top of Chan’s repertoire: survivalism. As a meek London business businessman, Ngoc Minh Quan’s (Chan) knack for springing camouflaged traps with tree branches and leaves is in the key of a doomsday prepper, but actually they represent the horrors of a native land he would rather forget but will summon if he has to.
Quan’s journey for vengeance is set off by a bomb that detonates in a busy street, killing his daughter Fan (Katie Leung, aka Cho Chang from Harry Potter). But he has had the capacity for a long time to go off on a one-man spree to make terrorists pay. He was a trained killer in his home country (it is a little confusing whether Quan is supposed to be Vietnamese, or ethnically Chinese but born in Vietnam, or something else) who sought a more peaceful life by moving to England, but lost two of his children along the way. To further ramp up the tragic backstory, his wife died while giving birth to Fan. So when Fan dies, it is the classic revenge setup of the man who has nothing left to lose. The Foreigner does not add much to this genre, save for Chan’s heavily haunted performance, his eyelids and hair permanently weighed down by the debris of the blast.
Those responsible for the bombing are certain members of the IRA attempting to stir up trouble, which Quan does not much care about, but the film certainly does. There is a sense of a bigger conflict swallowing up a few small people, similar to Edge of Darkness, director Martin Campbell’s last entry in the revenge field. But where that earlier film had an easily identifiable conspiracy hook, The Foreigner’s political conflicts are much more convoluted. For the uninitiated, it is hard to make heads or tails of what the IRA’s issues with the UK are, and why they should be flaring up now. That confusion is papered over a bit by the compelling presence of Pierce Brosnan as government official Liam Hennessy, whose association with the IRA may not be as reformed as he would like to pretend. The cat-and-mouse struggle between Chan and Brosnan is a high-quality white-knuckle battle between two vets who know exactly what they’re doing. But they are surrounded by a hodgepodge of other goings-on that do not come together for a clear message or purpose.
The Foreigner is Recommended If You Like: Apocalypse Prepping, Rambo, Edge of Darkness
Grade: 3 out of 5 Tree Branch Traps