Review by J.T. Johnson
DIRECTOR: Martin Campbell
CINEMATOGRAPHY: David Tattersall
WRITER: David Marconi
MUSIC: Cliff Martinez
“The Foreigner” is, as advertised, a revenge story about a man avenging his daughter’s death at the hands of terrorists. On the other hand, it is also a political thriller involving relations between Britain and Ireland. Director Martin Campbell directs Jackie Chan and Pierce Brosnan as they play an intense game of cat-and-mouse.
At the top of the movie, Ngoc Minh Quan (Chan) is taking his daughter to go get a dress for an upcoming dance. She rushes into the store while Quan goes to find a parking space. Before he can get into the store, though, a bomb goes off in the store killing several and soon Quan is cradling his daughter’s body in his arms.
He soon learns that the bombers are claiming to be a part of a new group called the Authentic IRA. Quan knows that the Irish deputy minister Liam Hennessy (Brosnan) used to be with the IRA and soon he is going after Hennessy for the names of those who killed his daughter. Hennessy claims to not know anything and you actually do begin to wonder if this is true as the movie plays out.
This is because the movie is also telling a political thriller where Hennessy is trying to keep those who want the old IRA to return at bay. He is also trying to keep the peace accords with Britain on the table and appears to be trying to find the bombers himself. Basically, he could know something but he definitely doesn’t know everything.
Chan is riveting as Quan and he definitely plays against type as he keeps it completely serious. I found myself emotionally invested in Quan’s story thanks to Chan’s portrayal of this tortured character. Not once do you get any hints of an over-the-top funny action star.
On the other side, this is just as much Brosnan’s film as much as it belongs to Chan. Hennessy is a man whose loyalties we are constantly questioning. He is a character that has changed into a politician but he still contains a former killer inside that is always trying to come out as he faces political rivals and those that think he’s gone soft.
From an action standpoint, I must admit that there is not as much as I thought there would be for a Jackie Chan movie. Still, the action that is there is good, though it doesn’t hit with quite the punch that one might be expecting. In other words, it’s not that bad but it’s nothing special either.
Campbell directs the movie with confidence. The revenge plot is nothing new but Campbell handles the material well enough. Thankfully, Campbell also seems as equally invested in the political thriller, which at times overtakes the average revenge tale.
“The Foreigner” could have been a forgotten thriller in the hands of anyone else. Thanks to powerful performances by the film’s two leads and confident direction, the movie ultimately works despite its flaws. If anything, it’s fun to watch Chan go far more serious than he is accustomed to and ultimately succeeding.