Martial arts legend Jackie Chan returns in full-force in Martin Campbell's The Foreigner, which is an emotionally-driven action revenger that's unafraid to give audiences a compelling story and well-shot action.
Casino Royale director Martin Campbell directs martial arts legend Jackie Chan in his return to the American big screen, The Foreigner. Also co-starring former James Bond himself, Pierce Brosnan — The Foreigner is a true return-to-form for Chan, Brosnan and Campbell, delivering a well-paced and intense action revenger.
The Foreigner stars Jackie Chan as Quan Minh, a working class father that owns his own Chinese restaurant in London. Quan is a humble man, caring for his daughter like any father would, until one day when his entire world gets turned upside down. His daughter is suddenly murdered in a terrorist bombing attack and Quan’s past starts to resurface as he demands answers to find those that did this to her and make them pay.
His hunt leads him to British government official Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan), a man with his own violent past that becomes unraveled the harder Quan pushes and the deeper he goes.
The Foreigner might sound like another cheesy revenge film in the same vein as Liam Neeson‘s Taken series, but it’s not. Thanks to director Martin Campbell, his writers and a heart-wrenching performance by Jackie Chan, The Foreigner is so much more, balancing the conflicts of terror and war with redemption and revenge in a way that feels skillful and sincere and far from “just another potential action movie franchise”.
Campbell’s film doesn’t settle for the easy plot and storyline that generally gets streamlined in these types of films and instead wisely decides to dive into a more complex batch of secrets and decisions. The Foreigner presents tough characters faced with even tougher decisions that eventually lead to payback and revenge.
The film doesn’t paint Pierce Brosnan‘s character as your stereotypical bad guy and instead creates a character that you might sometimes even sympathize for. His past may not be as rough or as sad as Quan’s, but Liam Hennessy has had his fair share of sacrifice for the greater good. Unfortunately, his greater good doesn’t always mean good in a universal sense. His seedy decisions ultimately create his own fate, but the film balances that turmoil in a way that makes things interesting to follow.
Jackie Chan‘s Quan is easily one of Chan’s better and more memorable performances in years. Gone is the young man that can take on fifteen to twenty guys at a time with his bare fists, without catching his breath and in is the old man that has seen his fair share of violence and loss. Quan tries to be a reasonable and respectful man, but when the law does nothing, he decides to take it into his own hands to deal up a righteous helping of justice and boy does it get served.
The action on display is measured and entertaining, not failing to note Chan’s age or weathered body, yet still kicking all sorts of ass. The Foreigner is an R-rated action flick and it wastes not a single opportunity to capitalize on that rating in terms of action and its storytelling.
What I appreciated most was Campbell’s ability to create a mature action film that’s about finding that balance between action and drama. The Foreigner isn’t a simple popcorn flick, yet it doesn’t bog you down with too much information and not enough movement.
It’s all about precision and anticipation.
The Foreigner doesn’t re-invent the action film wheel, but it does reinforce it and show just what can be accomplished when a knowledgeable and talented cast and crew are assembled.
Chan still has what it takes to lead a film and Brosnan hasn’t lost a touch co-starring in the mayhem. Director Martin Campbell too has seemed to remain a fluent action director that’s capable of telling a strong story that’s not worried about sacrificing emotion or drama for another action beat. He also keeps things mostly grounded, with Chan performing a few daring and impressive stunts, but mostly remaining a former ass-kicking super solider that’s simply trying to find answers, but not tear apart the entire world in the process. The Foreigner isn’t the most believable film or anything, but it doesn’t go too far in establishing Chan as an unstoppable force within reason.
The Foreigner is a dark and depressing reaction to the world we live in, told through an action movie lens. It’s sad and tragic and as real as can be, yet it provides us with that escapism that we once sought in action movies over the years. It’s satisfying and conclusive, which seems to be the opposite of how these things often tend to turn out in the real world, which means that The Foreigner serves its purpose and it does it well. Sometimes, it’s okay to watch an action film that puts you through the paces emotionally, before delivering on the action that the trailers promise.