Action Adaptation

'The Foreigner' Film Review: Jackie Chan proves he's more than just his martial arts moves

October 13, 2017Ferdosa Abdi

A tense and emotional action-thriller led by the incomparable Jackie Chan, The Foreigner is a new type of role for the Chinese superstar, who portrays a good father pushed to the edge when his daughter is senselessly killed in a terrorist attack. It's a quiet and understated performance that will remind audiences that Chan has more to offer than just his martial arts moves.

Chan plays Quan Ngoc Minh, a humble Chinese businessman who loves his teenage daughter, Fan (Katie Leung), dearly. Chan and Leung's scenes together are brief, but the pair is able to forge their characters' father daughter-dynamic quickly, such that when it ends, it truly is devastating. Set in London and the UK, the film itself is based on the 1992 novel by Stephen Leather called The Chinaman, and considering the number of times Chan's character is referred to as "the Chinaman," it would have been an apt — if not grossly politically incorrect — title for the movie. Aside from this name change, though, many of the original story's elements have been carried over.

We soon discover that Quan lost everything when his daughter died, and we watch him try in vain to get the names of the killers from authorities. Quan eventually reaches out to Irish Deputy Minister — and former IRA member — Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan), who gives the desperate father no names and nothing but empty promises. Hennessy is at the end of his rope, suspecting that one of his old IRA cohorts is behind the new, fringe IRA group claiming responsibility for the attack. At the same time, he's also under pressure from his former associates, as well as his wife, to do more for the Irish community, and from the British government to stay in line.

Needless to say, both Quan and Hennessy find themselves put in unfortunate positions due to this terrorist attack, and director Martin Campbell — best known for his Bond films GoldenEye and Casino Royale — uses these parallels between the film's main characters to craft a brilliant story of two men being pushed to the brink. As Quan and Hennessy each close in on the culprits, their differing motives help paint a larger picture that reveals the true nature of the relationship between the British and Irish in the story.

Meanwhile, screenwriter David Marconi's restrained script maintains an even focus on Quan and Hennessy, as well as the circumstances that have led them to this point. In the many emotional scenes that show Quan quietly contemplating his situation and remembering the past, Chan is able to convincingly play the grief-stricken father. And while Chan's character may come across as an old man who is unable to even stand up straight or walk without dragging his feet, we quickly learn we should never underestimate him when the time comes to fight.

Comparisons between The Foreigner and the Taken franchise starring Liam Neeson are unavoidable. However, it's really just the age of the two leads that serves as the only common factor. Whereas Taken is more of an action movie with some well-placed drama, The Foreigner is a slow-burn drama with a few well-placed fight scenes, but it will nonetheless leave viewers on the edge of their seats hoping Quan gets the revenge he so rightly deserves.

The Foreigner releases October 13th, 2017 from VVS Films. The film has an MPAA rating of R for violence, language and some sexual material. Its runtime is 1 hr. 54 min.

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