By Jason Yon
Anyone can watch one of Jackie Chan’s movies and find enjoyment in the comedic yet highly skilled action scenes. So when “The Foreigner,” an American action movie starring Jackie Chan, was announced, it was met with equal amounts of excitement and skepticism. On one hand, people love to see Chan on the screen, but he is definitely out of his prime at this point. That being said, he can still absolutely sell a movie just with the mention of his name. Chan along with the rest of the cast give it their all to produce a serious action movie.
“The Foreigner” essentially starts with Chan’s character, Quan Ngoc Minh, a Chinese immigrant living in London, dropping off his daughter to purchase a high school prom dress. Almost as soon as his daughter walks through the door, an improvised bomb detonates in the bank next door. The bombing is claimed by a fringe group that split off from the IRA, and from that point on the movie gets very political. An Irish politician with former ties to the IRA, Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan), gets pulled into question by the British government while simultaneously being pestered by Minh.
Minh is dead set on avenging his daughter’s death and seeks out Hennessy for information on those responsible for the bombings. Hennessy rejects the requests for information, wrongly assuming that Minh is simply a little old Chinese man and Minh then retaliates with guerilla style tactics that he retained from service in Vietnam. “The Foreigner” then devolves into a convoluted mess of politics and occasional action.
“The Foreigner” is nowhere near the typical Jackie Chan type of movie. This is much more serious and emotional than what his fans might have been expecting. This is in part due to Chan’s own stated displeasure at being typecast into roles that fell into the action comedy genre. He wanted to express to American audiences that he is capable of more than funny fight scenes. Chan certainly tries to achieve that here, and he does show a certain level of emotion and acting skill concerning more than what he usually puts out. There is still action with long takes and inventive props, but not nearly to the extent that made Chan famous. He still does his own stunts and choreography which is impressive, but seeing only two Chan fights is a little disappointing.
The strangest part of “The Foreigner” was walking in expecting a Chan movie and being greeted with what was essentially a Brosnan movie. Chan inhabited very little of the movie compared to Brosnan, who took center stage in the political thriller sections. This movie should have been one or the other; a Brosnan political thriller or a Chan action revenge. The movie is pulled too tightly between the two stories and barely works as a single cohesive film. Chan said he wanted to show his acting skills, but the reason he was in it was actually probably because he was producing and wanted to be in the movie himself. This isn’t a bad thing, but it does take away from comprehensibility of the movie as a whole. It simply becomes too convoluted.
“The Foreigner” was honestly pretty disappointing. It was a Chan movie fairly devoid of Chan and his classic hijinks and stunts. If it had been marketed as a political thriller with Brosnan taking the lead then there would be less of a problem, but all of the trailers advertised the film as a Chan resurgence movie. Even then, the political thriller they gave us was overly complicated and difficult to follow. Unfortunately, “The Foreigner” was less than entertaining even when Chan was on screen, and was far too long for its own good. Hopefully Chan returns to his roots at least once while he still can.