Last weekend we got the latest movie from everyone’s favorite martial arts master, Jackie Chan! The Foreigner follows two different men, a quiet Chinese restaurant owner named Quan Ngoc Minh (Chan) and the Irish Deputy Prime Minister Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan). Quan’s daughter is killed in a bombing conducted by the IRA, a violent group that Hennessy is connected to. Contrary to what the trailers would have you believe, Quan’s story is somewhat secondary to Hennessy’s.
The Irish politician plots to smoke out whoever in his organization had gone rogue and set off the bomb, all while dealing with the nuisance that is Quan. The titular “foreigner” is a former solider trained by US Special Forces, and he uses his talents to not only infiltrate Hennessy’s safehouse but also pick off his men one-by-one in the surrounding forest. I won’t go into any spoilers here, but you can probably guess how it ends.
I should preface the rest of this by saying that I have adored Jackie Chan and his films since I was a small child, so this review comes with a heavy bias. The Foreigner has been compared by some to the Taken franchise starring Liam Neeson, and yes it is similar in that it has an old guy massacring a group of bad guys because they hurt his daughter. However, where Taken pretty much exclusively follows Neeson’s character, in The Foreigner there are huge chunks of time where Jackie Chan is not only not present, but his character isn’t even relevant to what’s going on. Quan serves more as a catalyst to force Hennessy to more quickly investigate his own people, and his threat looms throughout the film as the Irishman is forced to deal with a growing restlessness among the younger members of the IRA.
The story here isn’t especially original and there are very few surprises to be had, but that shouldn’t deter you. The plot is still an interesting one, and any shortcomings it may have is more than made-up for by Jackie Chan’s action sequences. The Hong Kong-native has always been known for his more realistic, brawling-style martial arts and he brings those skills in an impressive manner to The Foreigner. His heartfelt portrayal of a broken man who’s lost everything he loves tugs at the heartstrings and elevates the film from a simple ‘shoot ’em up’ action flick to an intense emotional drama. Whether it’s cradling his daughter after an explosion or swinging down a flag pole from the roof of a house, this is one of the best Jackie Chan performances in recent years.
Opposite Jackie Chan is Pierce Brosnan as the self-serving, angry Irish politician. Hennessy is in many ways the perfect antithesis to Quan; where one is cold the other is loving, one neglects and betrays his family while the other risks everything for them, and where one has dozens of men to do his dirty work the other is a one-man army. They are two sides of the same violent, vengeful coin. Brosnan gives an intense, angry performance as a man who seeks only power sees just how quickly it can be taken away.
The explosive action set-pieces, Chan’s intense emotional performance, and Pierce Brosnan’s brooding, wrathful portrayal of a senior IRA member make The Foreigner one of the best action movies of the year. Don’t expect any awards chatter or to have your life changed by the film, but it is an intense and entertaining action flick that’s perfect to see on a rainy weekend.
Final Score: 7/10