STX FILMS (2017)
Director: Martin Campbell
Starring: Jackie Chan, Pierce Brosnan, Michael McElhatton, Liu Tao, Charlie Murphy, Orla Brady, Ray Fearon
Chan vs. Brosnan. Who’d have thought it?
Only the movie isn’t really as simple as that. It’s more Chan terrorizing Brosnan, who sends goons after Chan to little avail. The Foreigner is based on the 1992 novel The Chinaman by Stephen Leather and focuses on an underground terrorist cell, the Authentic IRA, and their tensions with Britain, including numerous bombings in London set against the political jungle of an ex-IRA minister and the British government. Intriguing stuff, huh?
When a terrorist attack by the Authentic IRA in Knightsbridge, London takes the life of his daughter, Ngoc Ming Quan (Chan) wants revenge. Grief-stricken and crushed, the ex-Special Forces Operator consistently visits the officer in charge of the investigation, Richard Bromley (Fearon), to obtain the names of the bombers. When this is unsuccessful, Quan turns his attention to Irish deputy minister Gerry Ad…I mean, Liam Hennessy (Brosnan) – a former member of the IRA. Hennessy has no knowledge of the bombers identities, however, suspicious of his past, Quan refuses to believe him and eventually turns to intimidation tactics in order to extract the information he requires.
Wary of his previous ties to the IRA, Hennessy’s superior Katherine Davies (Lia Williams) puts the pressure on him to turn over the attackers in order to avoid further action. With his estranged wife Mary (Brady) offering little respite, a mistress, Maggie (Murphy), to keep under wraps and Quan closing in, Hennessy calls in his enforcers and goons to take care of the situation – but is he as clean as he says he is?
An offbeat game of cat-and-mouse, the movie doesn’t quite pit Chan against Brosnan as the advertising heavily hints at. It may have been a better movie had it done.
The two leads play generally against type in The Foreigner – Chan is an ageing, brooding menace and Brosnan a grizzled, uncharming manipulator and their performances are the best parts of the movie. Irishman Brosnan lays on the accent a bit thick, but he portrays the pressure he is under well whereas Chan’s warrior is magnetic to watch. The trouble is, the fact that he is old is shoved into your eyeballs and never lets up. His initial performance with his daughter and after she is killed is pretty strong too. It’s an interesting matchup that pays off in the moments they are onscreen together.
Where the movie disappoints is the endless discussions between Hennessy and his henchmen/political colleagues – it’s all very OTT and exposition-heavy and removes the sheen from the positive aspects of the movie (i.e. man who’s lost everything seeks revenge on her killers). It does drag unfortunately and the unsubtlety in the writing and direction quickly give up the twist early on. Martin Campbell directs the action well and allows for some neat cinematography, but can’t capture the excitement and flair of his Casino Royale.
The action itself seems intentionally jarring at times, again, to emphasize just how frail Quan is supposed to be. He’ll win his fights, but he has to take a pounding first – though he is able to deadweight a 4x4 on an incline (and Rocky just pounds meat). The Foreigner becomes a big boys version of Home Alone at times too, as Quan lays traps and contraptions in order to snare his hunters – Kevin McCallister would be proud. It all gets a bit silly.
It was nice to see British institution Wickes get some screen time though.
Making a movie about a conflict that was at its height twenty-five years ago and doesn’t scream for an adaptation wouldn’t have been an issue had the movie excelled. Similarly to American Assassin, The Foreigner starts well but trails off into action cliché after action cliché, mixed in with boggy chunks of dialogue. There are satisfying moments throughout, but not enough to warrant high praise unfortunately.
October 20th 2017