The Foreigner is adapted from English author Stephen Leather’s The Chinaman, which he wrote while working for The Times during an IRA bombing campaign. The director, Martin Campbell, a veteran filmmaker, wastes little time getting going, and I appreciated it. We’re introduced to Ngoc Minh Quan (Jackie Chan) and his daughter Fan (Katie Leung) and not 10 minutes go by before the shop Fan enters explodes, killing her instantly. A grief-stricken Quan languishes about his home and business in a daze before leaving his friends behind and vowing to find and punish the people responsible for Fan’s death.
The film itself is little more than a ‘Dad Movie’ update; defined by Movie Bob as
“...hard-bitten action dramas starring gracefully-aging older male stars as omnicompetent badasses who solve their problems through methodical masculine determination and nigh-superhuman fighting prowess implicitly the result of their life experience and having survived into the weak and wimpy present from an age When Men Were Men.See also: The Expendables, Jack Reacher and the recent filmography of Liam Neeson”
That’s just fine! I like The Equalizer and I like this movie. However, it's not perfect. The film is incredibly predictable and I called the film’s plot beat by beat from its halfway mark. The film hits its stride when showcasing action. Martin Campbell (Goldeneye, Casino Royale) effectively gets the most out of the action set pieces. The narrative itself consists of forays into English-Irish politics, specifically with regards to the IRA, and Quan’s dogged search for his daughter's killers. A subject I know little to nothing about, I found the film’s exploration of the IRA’s organization and politics intriguing. Besides the Irish politics, and it’s slick action scenes, the only other area of the film that really shines is the two leads characters.
Jackie Chan performs in a refreshing change of pace as Quan, and he is the emotional heart of the film. Campbell gives the audience just enough time to sympathize with Quan as he grieves before he begins his righteous quest of vengeance. Jackie’s stunts are not overdone, nor ridiculous, and while he is portrayed as being almost superhuman in his abilities, it never crosses the line into absurdity. Quan narrowly escapes capture several times and gets battered throughout the film. Jackie is old now, and the film acknowledges this reality.
Quan doesn’t assault anyone directly until the film’s climax, but rather cleverly wages a guerrilla war of stealth, attrition, and embarrassment on Liam Hennessey (Pierce Brosnan) and the IRA. Despite Quan’s rage at the death of his daughter and his tenacity in bringing the killers to justice, Quan kills very few people. This is a nice touch by the filmmakers and probably due to Jackie’s family-friendly image, but it adds to Quan’s character. He consistently has the upper hand on Hennessey and his men but doesn’t kill them, because he only seeks to find the men who were directly responsible for Fan’s murder. He’s not The Punisher or Charles Bronson from Death Wish, he’s a broken man who wants justice for his daughter.
As good as Jackie Chan is, Pierce Brosnan is equally fantastic as Liam Hennessy, a high ranking IRA member turned politician. Hennessy is an older, weary man, who is tired of fighting but still willing to use unscrupulous means to achieve his goals. A former violent, passionate IRA member, he still commands considerable respect despite advocating for peace. A man now accustomed to power and respect he is caught tremendously off guard when things start falling apart. A steadfast fighter in his own right, Hennessy struggles to navigate a complicated, deadly political landscape while facing the English government, Quan, and his own IRA at odds with him.
The Foreigner is an enjoyable film with decent action. Unfortunately, it's literally a by the book revenge thriller that doesn’t bring anything new or interesting to the table. The film benefits greatly from the strong performances of Jackie Chan and Pierce Brosnan. It cannot be overstated how good these actors are when diametrically opposed to each other, and they are the glue that holds this uneven film together. Without them, this film would easily have fallen flat and been another disappointing generic action film. Essentially a darker version of Taken, but with IRA politics and Irish iconography inserted, the film isn’t bad at all, but it is substantially forgettable. There are certainly worse films out at the moment, but you’re probably going to see Thor: Ragnarok anyways.
TLDR: The Foreigner is a cliché, action-revenge-thriller Taken clone that is held together by the superb performances of its two completely out of character leads. 3/5 Stars
Chipman, Bob "Moviebob". The Equalizer . The Escapist , Defy Media, LLC, 26 Sept. 2014, www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/escape-to-the-movies/9762-The-Equalizer-Movie-Review
Leather, Stephen. “The Author - Stephen Leather.” Stephen Leather, Stephen Leather 1992 - 2012, www.stephenleather.com/index.php?page=the-author.