I was ecstatic when I learned that Jackie Chan was finally returning to Hollywood for the first time since the surprisingly enjoyable and emotional 2010 Karate Kid remake. After several films that never made their way outside of China, a new, wide release, R rated, Jackie Chan action film sounded incredibly promising. The trailers sold the film as the story of Jackie Chan desperately trying to get revenge on the IRA terrorists that were responsible for the death of his daughter and focusing his efforts on Irish deputy minister and former leader of the Provisional IRA, Liam Hennessy, played by Pierce Brosnan, who Chan believes is hiding information from the public. However, the film is much more complicated than just a simple revenge story, which ends up being a blessing and curse for The Foreigner.
While Chan’s revenge story and battle against Brosnan does take up a decent chunk of the movie, the whole film has heavy political overtones and it gets can even get hard to follow at certain points. There are plenty of dense, fast moving conversations and several different characters with different storylines that all eventually collide. If you aren’t paying close enough attention you can easily get lost. Brosnan actual has more screen time than Chan once the film has wrapped up, but that just made the scenes with Chan all the more enjoyable, I realized that less was more when it came to his character. The film is much deeper than a simple revenge story and while that might turn most people away, I was pleasantly surprised by its depth. However, this doesn’t mean that every scene was thoroughly entertaining, far from it actually. Several scenes could have easily been trimmed or changed to feel less slow. The run time clocks in at just under 2 hours, but feels more like 2 and half, and the occasional slow moments make an already complex film all the more challenging to follow.
Despite the fact that Brosnan’s storyline takes up the majority of the film, the action scenes with Chan were most definitely the highlight of the film. Unlike many conventional, big budget action film, Chan’s character is not a perfect killing machine. He is presented as the most skilled fighter in the film, but matter who he is fighting, Chan takes some serious damage. The fact that he never leaves a fight unscaved adds a lot of superence to each of his scenes as you are never 100% certain if he’ll walk away victorious. This is a lesson that I think many action and superhero film should learn, as having a hero who barely scrape by each fight makes for much more interesting scenes. The creativity used in every brawls also them stand out from other films. Seeing as Chan is often outnumbered, it made sense that he couldn’t just brute force his way through the whole movie. You get to see some truly clever strategy and calculated schemes play out instead of just Jackie Chan punching his way to victor.
The acting from the two leads is fantastic, with Chan giving a more heartfelt and subdued performance as opposed to the more aggressive performance of Brosnan. This difference in personality gives their relationship a great balance, one being a man with too much power who is quick to anger, the other being a stone cold killer out for revenge. The supporting cast is passable, but none of them are as memorable as Chan or Brosnan. What I found unexpect is how much the film focused on developing these side many characters. Brosnan’s wife and nephew get a decent amount of screen time and have a pretty big impact on the story. The terrorists that killed Chan’s daughter at the very start of the film actually get a lot more screen time than I expected, turning them from faceless enemies into real characters who are still trying to carrying out acts of terrorism while everything with Chan and Brosnan is taking place. Their inclusion adds another layer to the story as it’s another threat that affects the lives of the other characters. Throughout the film these three forces are constantly at war with each other, forming what I can only describe as a hate triangle.
While the inclusion of the terrorists as a constant threat adds another layer to the film, giving them a fair chunk of screen time along with balancing the storylines of Chan, Brosnan, his family and a local journalist adds further confusion to what is already a dense film. With all the connecting storylines and constantly evolving character relationship, mixed in with previous mentioned political overtones, this film just doesn’t always down smooth. If you miss The Foreigner in theaters, I don’t recommend going home and just putting it on in the background while you tidy up the house.
That all being said if you are willing to sit down and focus a little more what is normal expected from an audience member, The Foreigner is a great time. Every action scene is fantastically choreographed and coupled with dynamic camera work, each one is memorable. Jackie Chan’s performance proves that he is much more than an action man, and Brosnan makes for a great rival. Despite feeling bloated at several points the final action sequence was way to satisfying for me not to recommend this film. Without spoiling too much, I walked out of the theater with a big smile one my face, so despite the script feeling incredibly bloated, The Foreigner was definitely worth the price of admission.