The Foreigner (2017)
Director: Martin Campbell
Screenwriter: David Marconi
Starring: Jackie Chan, Pierce Brosnan
Based on Stephen Leather’s novel “The Chinaman” and directed by the man at the helm of Casino Royale (2006) Martin Campbell, 2017’s The Foreigner is a revenge thriller that is part First Blood (1982) levels of creative brutality and part political drama regarding the rights and wrongs of IRA-led terrorism and the ongoing conflicts of interest between the central United Kingdom and Northern Ireland. There may be a little too much going on and one too many characters to truly have the chance to care about, but The Foreigner is an effective piece nonetheless, offering a glimpse at a darker and more damaged side of Jackie Chan not often seen in Western cinema and certainly worth an intrigued glance. This is by no means perfect, but it does have a lot more going for it than first meets the eye.
The Foreigner is about as well shot and visually constructed as you could expect from a $35million movie littered with action sequences and expensive explosions, so while the visual style not turn heads like Guillermo Del Toro’s slightly cheaper The Shape of Water managed to do, this element of the film certainly didn’t detract from the qualities of the piece either. Instead of getting carried away in constructing beautifully coloured scenes of striking visual imagery, Campbell instead pointed the camera at his two lead actors (Brosnan and Chan) and gave the experienced duo every opportunity to create convincing characters with raw and almost roughed up performances that ultimately led the film will great effectiveness; with Chan being particularly refreshing as a stoic and war-torn veteran looking for vengeance.
In recent years, Chan’s growing age and diminishing physical capabilities have brought into question his abilities as a stunt worker turned big screen martial arts master, yet while his moments of intense physical performance are perhaps lesser in The Foreigner than in previous works, these moments acts as useful crescendos to narrative tension that help to build the same indestructible tough guy persona that Chan has managed to build for himself in real-life over the decades. Campbell, seemingly conscious of the possible issues, masked Chan’s lesser abilities – skills still far exceeding the ordinary human – behind creatively vicious action scenes reminiscent of the first John Rambo outing in 1982’s First Blood or the more recent Bourne franchise, with some sequences being almost lifted directly from these two inspirations; elements of the picture that only helped to bring more of a vicious reality to a story that you either go along for the ride with or quickly grow frustrated with courtesy of a narrative littered with too many side characters and underdeveloped plot lines.
If you’ve got an inch of respect for Jackie Chan and can strap yourself in to seeing him as a grizzly, broken down old man with a major chip on his shoulder, then The Foreigner will be a lot of fun. But, if you’re more about films making sense and exploring deeper meanings in any level of great detail, then this may be a film you quickly turn off from.
It’s not half bad, but it’s hardly earth shattering either. Owing much of its success to a very good Jackie Chan performance that masked its lack of effort regarding its own politics, The Foreigner is…