When it comes to straight-ahead likeable action stars, few have done it better than Jackie Chan. He built up an incredible body of work before breaking through in the U.S. which meant that, for many of us, we could start off with something like Rumble In The Bronx and then go on to discover the Armor of God or Police Story movies. He’s even carried his unique brand of humor and still-impressive action into more recent films like the incredible Chinese Zodiac. However, thanks to a review Blu-ray of The Foreigner, I now see him in a very different light.
See, even Jackie Chan can’t keep doing the same thing over and over again. And boy does he go a different route with last year’s The Foreigner, directed by Martin Campbell of Casino Royale fame. Following a path well established by the likes of Liam Neeson, Chan’s Quan Ngoc Minh finds himself on a path of hard-edged revenge in this film after his daughter is killed in a bombing perpetrated by a group calling themselves the Authentic IRA. Having already lost his wife and other two daughters to an equally terrible, yet very different attack years prior, this former super soldier leaves his old life behind to avenge his daughter.
This puts him on a direct path to Brosnan’s Liam Hennessey, a former leader of the real IRA who’s since become the Northern Ireland deputy First Minister. Quan’s convinced that Hennessy either has or will have the names of the bombers. When Hennessey doesn’t take Quan seriously the former first builds and sets off an ingenious bomb in the bathroom of the politician’s office and then proceeds to stalk him at his country estate.
After a great deal of back and forth and a boatload of intrigue both personal and political, the actual bombers’ identities become known and, well, more intensity ensues after the most nerve-wracking scene in the movie.
As I mentioned above this film’s a real departure for Chan. I’m fairly sure he doesn’t smile once after his daughter died and the first fight scene doesn’t come until about the 40 minute mark. Instead, he’s a far more broken character than I’ve ever seen before and he really seems to go there with his performance. At every moment he looks like a broken person fully focused on revenge and nothing else.
On the other hand, you also get to see the usually charming rogue Brosnan walk the moral tightrope a lot more than usual as the clearly secret-filled former IRA head honcho. I’ve only really seen him as James Bond and Remington Steele, but I do believe that he’s been in a few of these “old guy action” flicks recently too.
What separates The Foreigner from some of the other films of this variety? Well, for one thing, it’s clear that Campbell and his actors took it seriously. These very same plot is probably found in a legion of straight to Walmart or Netflix action films starring vaguely familiar or mostly forgotten faces, but everyone here came with their A game. Campbell even goes the extra mile by not skimping on the emotions, flashbacks or explosions (most of which seems practical). The result is a powerful film that expertly mixes the worlds of drama and action with some MacGyver-y moments thrown in as well and one that I hope plenty of people will watch now that it’s out on Blu-ray.