Let’s be honest here, you already know from the trailer that The Foreigner was going for a Taken/ Law Abiding Citizen vibe but with Jackie Chan in the lead. We’re seeing more and more of these movie types about a wronged person set out on a path of vengeance. We can be straight up that The Foreigner isn’t breaking new ground here, however, the movie does bear some unique fruit. I feel like I went too far with the “breaking ground” analogy and it forced me into a metaphor for agriculture and harvesting. I’m just saying, Jackie Chan shows up in a totally different capacity this time around.
The film opens with Ngoc Minh Quan (Jackie Chan) picking up his daughter and taking her shopping in London. Quan doing the father-daughter shit. We see how “eager and anxious” Quan’s daughter is to get a dress for this school event. Things take a turn when the shop she was in explodes. We then come to find out that this was an orchestrated attack by the Authentic IRA (Irish Republican Army). The film gets rooted in the uneasiness between the British and Irish relations. When the people responsible for this attack still aren’t found, weeks later, Quan takes to visiting the police (even trying to bribe them for whatever leads they have) and researching everything he can about the bombing online.
It isn’t until Irish deputy minister, Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnon) denounces these bombings as being done by a rogue faction of the IRA (the same group he used to be affiliated with) that the film truly gets underway. Quan ain’t buying for one minute that Hennessy, who use to run with the IRA and still has ties to them, doesn’t know who did this. The hunt for the names of those responsible guides the audience deep into a rabbit hole of politics, corruption, and vengeance.
The biggest draw for this film is that we’re seeing Jackie Chan playing a character outside his wheelhouse. There’s no comedic Jackie this time around. He’s not shaking his hand after throwing a punch and hitting something hard or giving a smirk after beating an opponent. Chan is stoic and deadpan the entire film, which we (as an American audience) aren’t used to seeing from him. Ngoc is a grieving father and that grief has led him to make a choice to get the names of these culprits. He has nothing and no one else (family wise) left. That goes double for fucks. Chan does a perfect job expressing this throughout the entire movie. I enjoyed seeing this side of Jackie Chan for a role.
What’s different with The Foreigner (to me) is the tactics that our protagonist, Ngoc, decides to employ in order to get what he wants. Ngoc isn’t showing up at random meetings, he’s using very extreme methods in order to get Hennessy to give up the names. I’m rolling with this choice because we see how calculated Ngoc is as he doesn’t hurt civilians but his methods show there’s so much more to him than the audience knows. The quiet and elderly immigrant demeanor/trope/stereotype (however you want to define it) becomes Ngoc’s disguise to get in and out of a situation as well as throwing his enemies off. We also see the levels played with as Hennesey’s now upper-class political position has him and his team underestimating Ngoc, a middle-class blue-collar worker until they realize he’s on another (very dangerous) level.
Speaking of being on a dangerous level, I’m still rocking with Jackie Chan’s fight choreography. Chan keeps everyone fighting to a beat, the combat is fast, compact, and wide when it needs to be. There’s no crazy over the top stunts this time around because, obviously, Jackie is older now, however, an interesting choice is that Chan has Nqoc’s character fights smarter instead of harder. We’re used to seeing flips and rolls from Jackie Chan making use of his environment, there’s less of that and more of Jackie making intricate moves in order for him to keep ahead of his opposition. A well-timed kick to an opponent’s knee for leverage, making use of traps, showing a younger fighter being more agile and nimble then using that against them. I like how low-key the fight choreography was for this film, it felt fitting. Anything over the top would upset the balance between the seriousness and the action.
Again, this movie isn’t groundbreaking but it’s good at showing the depth Jackie Chan can reach. There are issues with the movie to be aware of as the events of this film are based off the book “The Chinaman” (clearly no POC editor around to run that title by at that publication) which was based on an actual bombing where a Cambodian and Vietnamese restaurant suffered casualties, as well as using a Vietnamese name for the protagonist but a Chinese actor to portray them.
Again, these are a few issues to be mindful of when seeing the film. Overall, depending on how big a Jackie Chan fan you are will determine how many trips you take to the theater to see this one. If the job of this movie was break Jackie out of being pigeonholed as one type of action star, then The Foreigner does completes the task it was assigned.