Pros & Cons: The Foreigner

An aging war veteran known as Quan (Jackie Chan) has his whole life changed when his daughter is killed in a sudden explosion in London while she is shopping for a prom dress. After the horrific incident, Quan demands to know who was responsible for the attack going as far as to harrass Irish Deputy Minister Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan), who has some ties with the IRA yet claims to have no knowledge about the suspects. That doesn’t stop Quan though as the game of cat-and-mouse gets more and more intense as the stakes continue to rise for both men.

PROS:

This is easily the best pure acting I’ve ever seen from Jackie Chan. Even though there are long periods of time when Chan is not on-screen and there is a lot of scenes with just Chan staring a hole through the person next to him without uttering any dialogue, the former Drunken Master uses his presence rather than his goofy broken English to evoke pathos in his character.

Similarly, Pierce Brosnan is also quite a treat in this film and uses a thick Irish brogue that is convincing and menacing at the same time. For the audience, you’re never quite sure how to get a handle on this character and that’s made all the more evident by Brosnan’s delivery and his ability to rise above any hokey dialogue or plot details.

Despite the film definitely being a serious actioner, there are still some very well-choreographed fight scenes involving Jackie Chan and a number of foes.

I just absolutely have to give this one props for going completely against type for both lead actors and delivering something that at least felt fresh and different than what I had initially expected. While I do have my downsides (see below), the attempt at balance between Chan’s story and the plot involving the IRA and the government was at least a solid attempt at something different.

I loved the Rambo-inspired scene. You’ll know it when you see it.

CONS:

I thought there were sections of the film that were quite slow. When we leave Jackie Chan’s character for an extended period of time to focus on the political material involving the IRA and the government, it gets considerably less interesting. I understand that it is necessary to have some context but it feels like too much detail in what should ostensibly be a revenge thriller with Chan in the lead role. I also appreciate what they tried to do with these scenes but they just don’t come off as very interesting in comparison to the rest of the film.

Did anyone else get confused by all the names? I have a real problem with films barely establishing a character’s name and then expecting us to be confused/shocked/appalled when the name comes up later as a villain or hero, etc. I knew Quan was Jackie Chan and that Ian was Pierce Brosnan and that’s about it. After the film ended, I was able to go back and plot out who everyone was but it was mildly confusing while watching it.

The final scene was a bit lackluster. We spent the whole movie building up to an epic confrontation and then it just kinda peters out as a typical shootout without any of the cool elements from earlier in the film.

 

OVERALL:

While it’s not an Oscar-winner brimming with star-making performances (even though its leads are quite good) or Shakespearean writing, it’s still a pretty solid time at the movies and a refreshing change of pace for Jackie Chan.

RATING: *** ½

 

Rating System:

Less than * (Actively offensive to one’s intelligence)

* (Brutal; bottom-of-the-barrel)

** (Some elements keep it from being awful but still not very good)

*** (Completely watchable; a rental as old-timers might say)

**** (Great film with a few things here and there keeping it from being perfect)

***** (Flawless; a true achievement)