Foreigner, The (2017)
Release Date: October 13th, 2017 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Martin Campbell Actors: Jackie Chan, Pierce Brosnan, Ray Fearon, Orla Brady, Charlie Murphy, Lia Williams, Rory Fleck Byrne
he trailers would have one believe that “The Foreigner” merges the hard-edged vigilante thrills of “Death Wish” with the exciting flurry of martial arts mayhem for which Jackie Chan is known. Yet neither is delivered. The vast majority of the film focuses on all the wrong things – mainly Pierce Brosnan’s serpentine politician and a labyrinthine terrorism plot that involves forgettable villains. Chan is almost an afterthought, a mere thorn in the side of the real schemers. He pops up to cause a bit of mischief at random intervals and disappears soon after, derailing no major machinations. While Chan has never had astounding range as an actor, here he is stone-faced and sullen for the entire duration. To make matters worse, the creative and comedic action sequences often found in the martial artist’s films are glaringly absent. “The Foreigner” has found the unlikely imbalance of both too much Jackie Chan and not enough Jackie Chan.
When a bomb levels a London bank and kills twelve innocent bystanders, one man experiences the ultimate tragedy while another spies an opportunity. Mr. Quan (Jackie Chan) loses his last remaining family member and, when the police are unable to quickly close the case, becomes hellbent on tracking down those responsible by himself; Northern Ireland Deputy Minister Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan), vying for re-election and intent on furthering his own agenda, seeks to use the incident to force his British counterpart’s hand. The two men’s worlds collide when Quan, convinced that Hennessy knows the identities of the terrorists, confronts him, quickly escalating their initial encounter into an all-out war against the bureaucrat and his armada of IRA associates.
Perhaps it’s unfair to expect nonstop action and over-the-top combat sequences from a Jackie Chan vehicle. But even eschewing criticism of the general lack of enthralling fisticuffs, there’s little excitement offered from either the exercise in vigilantism or the terrorist mystery at the center of the story. Even while Chan hung from the side of a speeding bus or fended off a roomful of henchmen, his earlier films prioritized a blending of humor with thrills; alternating between laughing at the sight gags and cringing at the bone-crunching physical onslaughts was commonplace. Here, there is no levity. Bad things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. Everyone seems to suffer, while the only person the audience can root for is a juggernaut with the emotional range of a hurricane.
Chan’s antihero trajectory of vengeance is both predictable and generic. But it’s easy to understand. What’s less comprehensible is the film’s decision to focus on the antagonists. Brosnan’s treacherous politician soaks up an extensive amount of screen time. Everything from his underhanded dealings with other government officials to his infidelity with wife Mary (Orla Brady) is explored in great detail. He is, in equal parts, at the heart of the mystery and the main player in uncovering the culprits behind the bombings. Unscrupulous investigator Bromley (Ray Fearon) and conniving British minister Davies (Lia Williams) also command lengthy appearances, while the ruthless police, just minutes after torturing and murdering a suspect, barge in during the climax as if heroes there to save the day. The revenge genre formula isn’t complex; “The Foreigner” just seems to forget which character is the protagonist.
– Joel Massie