Arts and Entertainment

Jackie Chan Seems Like “The Foreigner” in His Own Film

“The Foreigner” disappoints with a convoluted story and a lack of Jackie Chan.

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By Darren Liang

As a kid, I remember sitting right in front of the television, awe-struck by the sight of Jackie Chan beating up bad guys with little effort in “The Spy Next Door” (2010) as I tried to imitate his every punch and kick. I also remember collapsing after five push-ups in the Fitness Gram that same year. Needless to say, my dreams of becoming the next martial arts warrior never came to fruition. Seven years later, 63-year-old Jackie Chan is still more physically active than me and is taking his career into a new direction with a rare dramatic role in “The Foreigner.”

“The Foreigner,” directed by Martin Campbell and based off of the novel “The Chinaman” by Stephen Leather, is an action thriller film following Ngoc Minh Quan (Jackie Chan), who seeks revenge upon the death of his teenage daughter during a London bombing by an Irish terrorist group named the “Authentic IRA.” He becomes obsessed with Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan), an Irish government official and former IRA member, who he believes to know the perpetrators, resulting in a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse.

On paper, the premise of the movie seems interesting enough, especially with Campbell and Brosnan working together once again after their past success with 1995 James Bond film “GoldenEye.” The film is not lacking in terms of action, with exhilarating scenes of Quan detonating bombs and fleeing from hitmen on roofs.

Yet, plotwise, the film is messy overall and overly complex, sloppily forcing two stories into one. While the beginning shows potential, Quan’s compelling quest for vengeance becomes cast aside as he hides in the woods for half of the movie, seemingly forgotten in favor of the much more confusing political side . After being threatened by Quan and his superiors, Hennessy is forced to identify the rogue agents, who are also being hunted by the British police. But with so many minor characters and subplots—one of them bizarrely being an incestual relationship of all things—the story just becomes convoluted and hard to follow.

However, “The Foreigner” manages to be saved from total mediocrity by the intense performances of Brosnan and Chan.

Brosnan, who is arguably the true protagonist in the film, plays the role of corrupt cold-blooded antihero Hennessy well. As his plans to identify the IRA and stop Quan continue to be foiled and the pressure on him by his superiors and the British police steadily increases over the course of the movie, the cracks in his façade as the cocky, poised government official at the beginning of the movie evidently become larger and larger. He becomes paranoid and ruthless, even shooting a terrorist in the legs until he leaks information.

And though Chan gets very few chances to shine, he impresses in each, shedding his typically easygoing, humorous self for the role of an empty father with nothing to lose. One of his most emotional scenes depicts him bloodied and surrounded in smoke, desperately searching for his daughter and then clutching her body, sobbing.

Even more spectacular to watch are the occasional showdowns between Quan and Hennessy. Chan and Brosnan evidently share great chemistry, as Chan’s cold, subtle demeanor is complemented well by Brosnan’s fiery, intense performance. One such face off has Quan with a blank expression on his face, calmly pointing a gun at an angry and panicking Hennessy.

It’s a shame the film lets Chan down, as his absence causes his character to seem very irrational and slightly more unsympathetic. He spends the majority of the movie threatening Hennessy and his men, who make it clear several times that they do not know who is responsible for his daughter’s death. It’s difficult to root for Chan when his character keeps antagonizing people for no real reason.

Yet, while the plot of “The Foreigner” may have been a disappointment, Chan’s stellar performance shows that the actor is just as versed in serious roles as in his standard comedic ones. And with obviously no plans to retire soon, perhaps Chan’s future dramatic works will finally live up to the actor’s name.