The Foreigner Review – More Thriller Than Action But Still Enjoyable
The Foreigner feels like two loosely related films crammed into one that still mostly works well as an enjoyable film. There are basically two stories being told here. The first story is of Quan Ngoc Minh, a father out to find the people responsible for the bombing that killed his daughter. The second story is Liam Hennessy, a former member of the IRA who now works to keep the piece with the British Government and is trying to find out who is committing the bombings in the IRA’s name. The problem with The Foreigner is that Quan’s story is why people are in the theaters and it’s what people want to see. To put it bluntly: We’re here for Jackie Chan not for Pierce Brosnan screaming at people in an Irish accent as he tries to weave through the unnecessarily complex motives of rogue IRA members.
It’s important to really manage expectations for this film. If you’re expecting a non-stop action movie like some of Jackie Chan’s earlier work, you’re going to be disappointed. Don’t worry, you will get action and when you do you’ll be happy. For the most part Chan still has it. There are definitely a few times when I can notice the stunt double, but after so many years sacrificing his body, it’s understandable at this point. Remember how at the end of some Jackie Chan films they would show his “stunt fails”? Yeah, I don’t understand how this man is still alive after all that. Which honestly works in this film’s favor. He has very little dialogue in this film but that doesn’t mean his acting is lacking. Chan does all his heavy lifting from his body language. He portrays Quan as this broken man when he’s interacting with most people. He moves slowly, averts his eyes down and shuffles his feet. Not only does the audience feel sorry for him but so do the other characters. Surely this old man is no threat. But then he starts asking for “the names” and has a dogged determination that almost turns him into a terminator. The way his character doles out punishment reminds me of Denzel Washington in The Equalizer. He makes homemade bombs to hound Hennessy into telling him the names of those involved. He sets up in the woods and creates traps to lure people in. Quan quickly goes from the sad old man no one takes seriously to a serious threat. It's pretty fun to watch and Chan does a great job pulling it off.
This is where the film shines. Where it gets a little muddy is on the thriller side with Brosnan’s Hennessy. Brosnan pulls his weight in this film and actually is really good particularly in scenes with Chan. But the mystery of who has betrayed Hennessy and who is behind the bombings is predictably easy to figure out. Also it feels at times as if they wanted to make this part to be its own movie since the realty of who is behind the bombings really has nothing to do with Quan or his dead daughter. The film forces paths to cross that just don’t feel natural. Sometimes the film feels it’s both trying too hard and not trying hard enough at the same time with Oh and there’s a moment in the film that is the equivalent of Adam West’s Batman running through the streets with a bomb over his head. I think the scene is supposed to be tense but I was honestly laughing the whole time.
While not the greatest movie to come out, I’ll take films like The Foreigner over American Assassin any day. It’s nice to see a film where the bad guys aren’t all black or brown in some form of ISIS offshoot. Terrorism comes in different colors and the fact that Hollywood seems to lean heavily on a standard “Middle-Eastern look” for its terrorists is getting old. Also, unlike American Assassin, this film has a pretty good explanation for how this old Chinese restaurant owner is able to hunt down and kill terrorists.
If you go in knowing this isn’t a flat out action movie, then you’ll come out satisfied. There’s enough action to keep you entertained (and its brutal) and the thriller side has issues, but is still enjoyable.