The Foreigner, staring Jackie Chan and Pierce Brosnan, was released in the United States in October of 2017. So, I’m late. However, after watching The Foreigner, I feel confident saying that this was the most underrated movie of 2017 – if not only for Chan’s dynamic performance. The tagline says it all: Never push a good man too far.
Directed by Martin Campbell (Casino Royale, and Golden Eye), the film is centered around Quan Ngoc Minh (Jackie Chan), a Chinese immigrant living in London with his daughter. A quiet, and protective father, his dark past comes to light when his daughter is killed in an act of terrorism. We don’t get the Chan that most people in the US know, he isn’t comedic or using his martial arts skills to beat up bad guys from the get-go. Instead, we see him as a grieving father, a man who walks through his daughter’s room with a stare that makes you feel his pain. In fact, in one interaction with what appears to be his only friend Lam (Tao Liu) he silently cries. Not the look into the sky grief stricken cry, but the cry of a man who is ready to fight through the tragedy, with streams of tears coming down his cheeks while he looks past Lam. It’s a truly emotional scene and one where Chan’s acting ability really shines.
As the aftermath of the terrorist attack unfolds, Quan is shown asking for the names of the bombers, sitting in the police station every day, waiting for an answer. He’s shown as a sad old man, waiting, knees together clutching his life’s savings trying to find out who took his child’s life. When he sees a news report chronicling Liam Hennessy’s (Pierce Brosnan) investigation into the bombing and it’s potential roots in the IRA, Hennessy’s organization before his political career. When Quan repeatedly calls and receives no information, he decides that Hennessy must know more than he is putting on. Quan embarks on a game of cat-and-mouse, hoping that Hennessy’s past will reveal the men who killed daughter. It’s at this point where the movie really picks up. We get to see Chan as a skilled fighter, surviving encounters with multiple IRA members sent to capture him.
When it comes to reviewing The Foreigner, it takes a little to get going but at just under 2-hours, the pacing works to build a connection between you and Quan. The fight scenes are few compared to what is shown in the trailer but ultimately they’re so well-done that they stick in your mind after viewing. As Quan’s past unfolds, the dots start connecting as to why a mild-mannered restaurant owner would turn vigilante. If you can’t tell by now, Quan is the best part of the film and it’s a credit to Chan’s acting and physicality.
Unlike other action movies staring aging action-heroes, The Foreigner doesn’t aim to make a movie where they age-down Chan. Instead Quan’s character’s age is known (61 in the film, Chan was 63 when it was released) and his styling is the perfect example of the dad he is in the opening scenes: graying hair and clothes more suited for a PTA meeting than a shootout. This doesn’t detract from the experience but enhances it. In no way do you expect an older man to win a fight between four 20-somethings, and it builds the excitement in every encounter. The IRA characters in the movie continually refer to Quan as “the old China-Man” in the beginning in a dismissive way, not expecting him to be an issue. As the plot unfolds, the characters around Quan begin to fear him.
Another quality of Quan’s character is that until he finds the people responsible, he doesn’t kill anyone, his goodness is never questioned. He injures them yes, some severely, but he isn’t a killer. He isn’t in a blind rage like we often see in these types of action movies (like Taken). Instead Quan is a character’s whose motivations and background is present in every choice he makes and ever step he takes in his mission for justice. Showing that even a good man, once pushed, is capable of vengeance.
There are some negatives: Accents. Even though Brosnan is Irish, it’s safe to say that years of being Bond and spending most of his life in England didn’t help him keep an Irish accent. In fact, out of all the Irish characters in the film (since the IRA is the bad guy here), his delivery of lines seem forced, like he had to stop for a second before each sentence to think about how an Irishman would say it. It’s fairly distracting, however since he is Irish (which I just found out using Google a minute ago) I don’t want to say he shouldn’t play an Irish government official, but that accent really took me out of the scenes especially when paired with other Irish actors. Now this may just be my American lack of exposure to European accents, so this may not be something you notice – but it is something I noticed in multiple Irish character, Brosnan just talks the most.
Outside of accents, the plot is a little convoluted. You have to follow Quan’s quest to find the people responsible, Hennessy’s quest to weed out the dissenters in an organization by finding the people responsible, and you have to follow the people responsible. The story is great, but the pieces to don’t flow easily and if you look down at your phone during one of the explanatory scenes you’ll be lost.
All in all, I’m just happy to have Jackie Chan on my screen again, and to see him a role that highlights is range as an actor. I personally love it when actors are able to make you feel with just their expressions and minimal dialogue. I would definitely watch it again and I’ll be on the lookout for more projects like this from him. So if you come for him you won’t be disappointed.
The Foreigner is available to rent on Amazon. You can get it here.
- Rating - 8/108/10
The story is great, but the pieces to don’t flow easily and if you look down at your phone during one of the explanatory scenes you’ll be lost.
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho? and Did You Have To?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.