Possible spoilers ahead!
“The Foreigner” tells the story of humble London restaurant owner Quan (Jackie Chan), whose long-buried past erupts in a revenge-fueled vendetta when his teenage daughter is killed in an act of politically motivated terrorism. Based on the novel “The Chinaman” by Stephen Leather, the film is directed by Martin Campbell and stars Jackie Chan, Pierce Brosnan, Michael McElhatton, Liu Tao, Charlie Murphy, Orla Brady and Katie Leung.
“The Foreigner” is a mixed bag of a movie. Some parts are really good, and others serve as filler and end up being unnecessary. One of the strangest aspects of “The Foreigner,” is seeing Jackie Chan “act.” What I mean by that is that this is the first time where Chan didn’t rely on his comedic talents, or his martial arts expertise. For once, he was forced to act, and the results were meh.
Jackie Chan tries his best, but he gives an unconvincing performance as grieving father. As soon as his daughter is killed he goes into a rage, and he plays Quan as a cold bloded killer. I guess this makes sense considering the character is supposed to be an ex-military man.
But it’s hard to care about Quan when he starts attacking people who don’t appear to have anything to do with his daughter’s death. And even if they were somewhat responsible, it doesn’t mean Quan needs to go after their family. This issue would have been helped if we’d gotten to know the daughter, but the film only gives us about two minutes with her.
The movie isn’t helped by the fact that Jackie Chan vanishes for long stretches at a time while a bunch of British and Irish diplomats, policemen, and terrorists talk in what becomes a convoluted story of political intrigue. Much of this part of “The Foreigner” revolves around the back-channel dealings between Irish diplomat Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan), with his British counterpart.
I’ve been a Brosnan fan since before he took over as James Bond, so it was nice to see him here. Brosnan does a nice job playing a former-IRA member who is now doing everything he can to protect his decades-long legacy of diplomacy. As the viewer you’re not sure if you should like this guy or not, but it’s hard not to like anything this guy is in. But why oh why is Brosnan’s Irish accent so atrocious?
Towards the end of the movie’s second act, another plotline is introduced that involved Brosnan’s wife having an affair with their nephew. This came out of nowhere, and I had to explain to my wifey what was going on. The wife’s story could have been interesting had it been given the proper amount of time to develop instead of just throwing it in there and adding the nephew to spice it up.
Speaking of this nephew, he’s first introduced as a journalist working in New York. We even get a scene where he discusses his job, but all of the sudden he’s referred to as the best tracker in Ireland. Nest thing we see is him in the woods of Brosnan’s farm attempting to track down Quan before he strikes again. This too could have been interesting, but once more it comes out of the blue, as if something was left on the cutting room floor.
Director Martin Campbell has shown in the past that he is a good action filmmaker. Campbell saved the James Bond franchise twice with “Casino Royale” and “GoldenEye,” and even his Zorro movies were fun adventures. But ever since “Casino Royale” he seems to have lost his touch. For much of “The Foreigner” I felt like I was watching an expensive TV movie with uninspired action set pieces.
“The Foreigner” is far from a perfect film. There are major plotholes and some inconsistency in the pacing and little to no character development. However, despite all the problems I had with this movie, I was as surprised as the next guy when towards the end of the film I found myseld rooting for both Pierce Brosnan and Jackie Chan.
To be clear, neither Brosnan or Chan do their best work here, but they are the best thing in this movie. If it wasn’t for them, “The Foreigner” would be an absolute disaster.
“The Foreigner” final score: C-