Chan teams up with post-Bond-era Pierce Brosnan for the most kick ass spy thriller maybe ever?
Jackie Chan became famous for his crazy martial arts comedies, and we all love him for them. In the last two decades he starred in several movies with more serious undertones that also dialed the action back just a bit. From all those films, The Foreigner is arguably the best of them. The movie was directed by Martin Campbell, whose talent helped the latest two James Bonds Pierce Brosnan (who also stars in The Foreigner) and Daniel Craig start their journey as the world’s most famous secret agents in GoldenEye and Casino Royale.
How ‘GoldenEye’ Set the Foundation for a Post-Cold War Era James Bond
UAMC Reviews ‘The Foreigner’
The Foreigner is based on the novel The Chinaman by Stephen Leather. The daughter of London restaurant owner Quan is killed in a bombing for which a group of Northern Irish terrorists claims responsibility. The devastated Quan sets out to find her killers and bring them to justice. His skills as a former Vietnamese special ops soldier come in handy on his search for vengeance. Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland Liam Hennessy starts his own investigation into the origins of the terrorist attack, and his pursuit becomes entangled with Quan’s mission in a most violent fashion.
The novel was written in 1992, at a time when the Irish Republican Army was still very active in its violent fight to unite Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland. The movie places the story into a time almost two decades after peace was finally established. It’s probably fair to say that in 2017 the topic was a lot less controversial for most people, and thus may be suited to be cast into an action thriller template.
In a good political thriller the dialogues are just as intense as the action scenes and The Foreigner is stellar in this department. The grim outlook of triggering another civil war in Northern Ireland results in a frantic political game. The power struggle between London and Belfast is a key element of the plot, and the resolve and ruthlessness of the politicians involved is portrayed very believable.
Not All-Out Action (But Every Punch Hits)
The film has some difficulties in resolving all its plot elements, as by necessity it needs to reserve room for the action scenes, and is not a three-hour political thriller epic like JFK. That being said, Campbell wraps up everything as efficient as possible, I think. Another slight detriment is that the movie skips any introduction on the historical background and jumps right into the plot. While that works well to immediately a sense of immersion, it may create some confusion for people who are not familiar with the topic.
The Foreigner is not an all-out action movie, but there’s a good chunk of thrills besides the political intrigues. They involve Quan most of the time, and Jackie Chan shows that he can still pack a serious punch as a 63-year old ex-special ops agent. He does not deliver his usual comical martial arts, in The Foreigner every punch hurts, and when someone is thrown through a window, they also look the part afterwards. The fight scenes definitely are not as artistic as his classic performances, but look rather realistic with intense outbursts of raw violence.
James Bond: Remembering the Ultimate Heroes Behind ‘GoldenEye’ (1995)
Jackie Chan Like You’ve Never Seen Before
You’ll also see Jackie Chan him like you never have in a movie, sad, broken, and hopeless. He’s also actually looking his age and not covered under an inch of makeup. His character Quan is put in a situation with nothing to lose, and he pursues his self-anointed task relentlessly until the bitter end. Chan’s role is contrasted by his counterpart Hennessy (played by Pierce Brosnan), deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland. He is a hardened ex-IRA veteran, and now a successful politician who has his reckoning coming. Brosnan is great in his role, he’s blunt and clever, and leaves no doubt that he’ll draw a gun from his desk to shoot anyone who infuriates him.
Chan’s and Brosnan’s intense performance only add to the high quality of this gripping and intelligent action thriller. Campbell masterfully succeeds in blending a complex political plot with Quan’s quest for vengeance without the need for lavish sets or gimmicky special effects. The Foreigner certainly is a very different beast from your typical Jackie Chan movie with fairly grounded action sequences that are still a lot more kick-ass than those of your average Tom Clancy adaptation.