THE FOREIGNER review by Patrick Hendrickson – Jackie Chan wants revenge on Pierce Brosnan

THE FOREIGNER review by Patrick Hendrickson – Jackie Chan wants revenge on Pierce Brosnan

THE FOREIGNER is a production that is part revenge story and part conspiracy thriller featuring Jackie Chan and Pierce Brosnan leading the cast with two strong performances. The film has a great mix of the typical action stunt work that has made Chan such a joy to watch and also allows for him to present an emotional performance that is a very welcome surprise from the actor. Jackie Chan needs no introduction but Ngoc Minh Quan does, because in a welcome turn of events, Chan is actually playing a character for once and not acting in his usual persona. Quan is a grizzled veteran whose family has mostly been killed by the start of the film. The only remaining member of his is his youngest daughter who dies very early in the story because of a terrorist bombing. This sets him on a violent search for the bombers which puts him at odds with Liam Hennessy (played by Pierce Brosnan) who is the government official tasked with taking this terrorist group down, all while sporting a shadowy past of his own.

Brosnan does a very good job in the role but Hennessy’s character suffers as a result of the larger plot. There is a lot going on with this movie and a lot of it is not explained until late in the story. Quan is a relatively simple role in both motivation and in the actions he takes, but Hennessy is caught in a grand sweeping web that the movie does not do a great job of un-weaving for the audience. There also is not any cathartic moment of this conspiracy unraveling whereas there is satisfying closure for Quan’s story.

The background for the entire story is a reigniting of tensions between a group claiming to be the IRA and the British government. There are elements of a spy thriller within THE FOREIGNER and while these are well done, it does feel at times to be divorced from Quan’s quest for vengeance. There are moments where it feels as if two different movies got cut together and at times I found myself wanting more of Quan and less of this convoluted espionage. I assume that this works both ways and that someone with different preferences might find themselves wishing there was less of Quan and more of these other elements.

Quan cannot truthfully be called a hero but he does make an effort to avoid any civilian injuries or casualties and non-lethally incapacitates most of the soldiers sent after him. This includes setting traps in a small forest area such as pit-falls and punji-stick traps. There is an interesting kind of slowness to Quan’s method as well. He takes his time in preparing these things likely due to this old age and also likely due to the similar methodical preparation during his time as a soldier. The action in this movie is as top-notch as Chan has ever been involved with, which is impressive due to his age. He is still the lovable marital artist that we all know, he just slowed down a tad because which I think is acceptable, laudable, and a fresh feeling for the veteran actor. He still showcases his martial arts skills briefly in a few hand-to-hand fights but also exhibits a wide variety of survival and Special Forces skills such as bomb-making and the aforementioned traps.

The fact that the two major characters of this story have bloody pasts left the movie in danger of being over-reliant on a lot of flashbacks, but thankfully there is only one sequence of them. It was certainly difficult to watch the dreadful things that Quan has experienced but the editing of these flashbacks leaves a little to be desired. The cuts simply are too quick and too erratic to have any clarity and it could leave the viewer confused as to exactly what was going on. This scene contrasts starkly with the slower approach that the majority of the film follows. Only during the action sequences and these flashbacks does the pace pick up. The action scenes are all well-done and not nearly as chaotic as the flashbacks.

Overall this production has a lot of good things going for it. The two major characters are excellently portrayed by their respective actors. The linkage between Quan and Hennessy’s different conflicts is one that weakens at a few stages but soon enough these two divergent plot threads come together in a satisfying conclusion for Quan but sadly few others. In the end, THE FOREIGNER gets a 4/5

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