Director: Martin Campbell
Starring: Jackie Chan, Pierce Brosnan, Rufus Jones, Charlie Murphy
When his daughter is killed in a terrorist attack by a radical splinter group of the IRA, small business owner Quan (Jackie Chan) is despondent and looking for answers. Irish bureaucrat Liam Hennessey (Pierce Brosnan) has been working hard to broker peace between between Ireland and the British government for many years since his departure from IRA radicalization into his more political position. Searching for the culprits which may be close to him, Hennessey is beset by Quan who believes he knows who is responsible via his private investigation. As London is rocked by more terrorist attacks. Hennessey and Quan engage in a battle of wills with Hennessey utilizing his formidable resources and position against Quan’s mysterious skills earned and polished in a long buried past.
When advertising began in earnest for this British Chinese co-production, many were quick to compare the film to the Liam Neeson film series Taken. Focusing on the idea of an older actor using “a unique set of skills” is certainly there, as well as Chan presumably being cast against type, it would be a disservice to simply distill this film into that formula, especially considering the many unique and darker roles Chan has occupied in both the Hong Kong and Chinese film industry. Adapted from the 1992 novel The Chinaman by Stephen Leather, Campbell’s The Foreigner is a lean and very entertaining action/thriller that sees Chan and Brosnan going at it with Brosnan’s scene chewing Irish accent against Chan’s quietly dangerous portrayal of Quan. The idea of dropping Jackie Chan into a political procedural is an idea that absolutely shouldn’t work but the screenplay by David Marconi is both lean and tense; it affords an energy that is typically lacking in these types of films, especially with traditional British procedurals.
Chan is actually in a fairly limited role despite being the titular “foreigner.” His every appearance is memorable however; be it in battle with those after him, utilizing his skillset for the construction of traps, or the tender emotional loss he displays at the beginning of the film. It’s an engaging performance that actually is has little in the way of dialogue but Jackie’s bread and butter has been his facial reactions and his physical acting is on point in this outing.
By contrast, Brosnan’s Hennessey is at first cocksure and confident of his position in the world; he isn’t that bad of a character and his search for those responsible for the bombing is both an interesting look at the unofficial inner workings of the IRA movement and a frustrating study in the separation of the states. His slow unraveling at the hands of Chan carries with it a sense of satisfaction as the character of Brosnan’s Hennessey becomes clearer. Of mention is a decent turn by Rufus Jones who shares a solid fight sequence with Chan and Irish actress Charlie Murphy who plays a mysterious female embroiled within the plot.
The Foreigner is a perfectly serviceable and enjoyable action thriller that is both engaging and entertaining. While this certainly doesn’t herald a new coming for Jackie in the English language film market, it will satisfy those following Jackie’s career and those looking for something different from the more widely known Chan works.