The Foreigner, 2017.
Directed by Martin Campbell.
Starring Jackie Chan, Pierce Brosnan, Rufus Jones, Charlie Murphy, and Orla Brady.
The story of humble London businessman Quan (Chan), whose long-buried past erupts in a revenge fuelled vendetta when the only person left for him to love – his teenage daughter – is taken from him in a senseless act of politically motivated terrorism. In his relentless search for the identity of the terrorists, Quan is forced into a cat-and-mouse conflict with a British government official (Brosnan), whose own past may hold clues to the identities of the elusive killers.
Jackie Chan’s career in the West has been a mixed bag to put it mildly. Even at the height of his popularity West of China, in Rush Hour and Shanghai Noon etc, he was doing affable (if disposable) entertainment. The trouble was, among his better aforementioned works, he was doing dreadful films like The Spy Next Door and The Tuxedo. Those sort of “remember them?” films which people only hazily recall when it reappears on one of those obscure freeview channels that you rarely ever even flick to because they’re so near the wobbling boobs channels at the arse end of the listings. Or worse yet, it’s on Channel 5.
The problem extended though, because upon returning to China and having worked solidly, he has been stuck in something of a mediocre rut on the whole. Chan’s films begin to seem outdated and half-hearted. He’s always good value and he’s always giving 100%, but he has attached himself to the wrong projects, whilst die-hard fans of his classic Hong Kong period cannot accept that time has taken its toll on a man who is no longer in his prime and can’t jump off 30 foot high buildings with no crash mats.
So when The Foreigner was announced, with Chan co-starring with Pierce Brosnan and under the direction of Martin Campbell (Casino Royale, GoldenEye), signs were promising that Chan would return to form. The film has had its share of problems though. First there was the exploding bus incident on Lambeth Bridge in London. In an increasingly tense time around big European cities, the stunt itself wasn’t orchestrated with quite enough fore-warning. As such it did cause a degree of panic. Which leads on to the subject matter. The film deals with terrorism hitting London. It was shot before the events that have blighted the UK public in the last year. We’d sort of began to settle into a degree of comfort. These events were striking Europe with horrific regularity but post 7/7, the UK seemed to be clear(ish). As such Westminster, Manchester etc have rocked the nation. It also leads to the fairly understandable delay in The Foreigner getting its UK release. It’s also no surprise it has been quietly let out on Netflix without much fanfare. As the ads have stated, in other markets the film has proved a big success (particularly in Asia).
The Foreigner in the end is something that feels pretty dated. Similar issues surrounded the release of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s thriller Collateral Damage. It follows a very similar arc as this film with the subject matter. It was due to be released shortly after the events of 9/11 but ended up being delayed (quite understandably). Anyway, it’s safe to say that The Foreigner is a lot better than Collateral Damage. Chan’s character, an ex-Special forces specialist living quietly with his daughter in London is rocked when she is killed in a terrorist blast from a new IRA faction. Minh (Chan) begins pushing a Government official (Brosnan) for information on who carried out the blast. With UK and Irish relations on a knife-edge and the peace treaty in jeopardy, it appears Hennessy (Brosnan) may know more than he’s letting on. Minh goes from being a nuisance to a danger, and when his military past is revealed, he’s put on the hit-list.
The whole thing feels very much a routine and outdated straight to video number. What it has in its favour though is the principle cast, who elevate those roles and solid direction from the reliable Campbell. Everyone involved has done better work, but they elevate this from being standard mediocre affair. A hackneyed script and subject do not do Chan et al justice. To a degree this whole subject is timely but one cannot help but feel that the source material is 20-30 years out of date and the script itself never goes beyond two dimensions.
Chan is excellent though. It’s a committed and heartfelt performance. He tries to offer another layer to it but the writing is just not there. Brosnan is on good form too, but the rest of the cast are decidedly ordinary. In the fisticuffs department there are some solid action scenes as you would expect from Chan and Campbell combining but the film stops still too often and needs more energy. When it ignites it’s a good watch and there are good set pieces. This also offers an intensity we don’t often see from Chan.
Overall this is pretty routine stuff but Chan is in fine fettle, and the GoldenEye gang aid in making this a cut above standard DTV fare.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★