Jackie Chan is finally allowed to showcase his incredible range in his latest film, The Foreigner. Fans of Chan, who’ve experienced more than just his English language films, already know he’s capable of playing almost any role. Whether it’s The Founding of a Republic, The Myth, or The Golden Lotus, Chan has always been a powerful actor.
But The Foreigner frees Chan from the Rush Hour and Shanghai slapstick comedies he’s become well known for stateside. This is one of the reasons Chan wanted to take on the film. He stated that he wasn’t sure American audiences would accept him in Will Smith’s The Karate Kid. This was his first major film where he did not fight like a martial arts expert. Instead, he played an aged man who moved slowly. But when the film hit theaters it earned Chan a lot of praise. When he was approached to make this film, he lept at the chance, excited to show another side of himself to American audiences.
Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that director Martin Campbell (Casino Royale and Green Lantern), enforced a strict policy of realistic fighting. The choreography isn’t flashy. Its quick jabs mixed with wrestling and strong-arming. Fighters frequently look exhausted and beaten. It is exquisite to watch Chan in this form.
Pierce Brosnan shines opposite Chan, and his villainous Liam Hennessy is just shy of a mustache-twirling deviant. Hennessy is a low-level politician who tries to please both his political allies and deploy the IRA troops he’s still loyal to. His new dream for the IRA is to be legit. Clean money, less blood, and a free Ireland are all he cares about. Hennessy is willing to get his hands dirty if necessary but, more than anything, he wants to clean up the way the IRA is perceived by the media. Brosnan expertly plays a man juggling an unsatisfied wife, disgruntled daughter, and upholding political obligations while simultaneously losing power within the ranks of the IRA. There is a physical weight of stress that Brosnan carries throughout the movie.
The one downside of The Foreigner is that there wasn’t enough Chan. The story jumps back and forth between a rogue group of terrorists, with Hennessy trying to hold the shattered piece of his life together and Chan’s Quan Ngoc Minh hunting down the men who killed his daughter. The spy thriller keeps a driving pace as everyone’s life slowly spins into chaos and murder.
Though many have compared it to Taken, there’s something unique about this flick. The main character isn’t here to destroy lives at all costs. He’s experienced the worst loss a human can feel: the death of a child. Like everyone’s favorite hero, Batman, he does not wish to kill. Hennessy and Minh have a gentleman’s dispute, with both trying to send a message without spilling unnecessary blood. It’s this dynamic that makes the film sparkle.
This is a mature film exploring how our choices and circumstances shape who we are and how all life decisions are made in cornered situations. Beautifully shot and excellently scored, there is a lot to enjoy in this movie.
The Foreigner is now playing in theaters.