By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
The list of revenge flicks in existence may run for miles, but there’s a good reason for this. This type of movie, when executed well, makes for compelling cinema. Usually, the protagonist is portrayed as a sympathetic character for whom audiences can cheer, and when the bad guys get their just desserts, this makes for an all too satisfying conclusion. For some audiences (perhaps myself included), a revenge film can be a guilty pleasure. I, personally, do not believe in vengeance, but still find some subversive satisfaction in seeing a character have the guts to take matters into his or her own hands. Martin Campbell’s The Foreigner definitely does not conquer any new ground when it comes to revenge action thrillers; however, with the charismatic Jackie Chan in the lead role, and some thrilling action set pieces, the movie can certainly hold its own among other similar feature films.
Chan stars as Ngoc Minh Quan, a humble restaurant owner living in England with his teen daughter Fan (Katie Leung). When Fan gets tragically killed in a terrorist attack, Quan goes on a mission of vengeance to bring down the people responsible. After further investigation, Quan goes after government official Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan), a former IRA member who might know, or be able to find out, the identities of the terrorists. At first Hennessy and his security don’t take the seemingly harmless Asian man seriously; however, given Quan’s experience as a former elite soldier, he eventually proves to be a greater threat than they originally anticipated.
Based on the 1992 novel The Chinaman by Stephen Leather, The Foreigner delivers suspense and intense action, mixed with just the right amount of poignancy. Most of the beats are familiar and Martin Campbell and screenwriter David Marconi don’t do anything strikingly different, but their character development of both Quan and Hennessy makes the story more absorbing. The well-executed action sequences provide the icing on an already satisfyingly dessert. The suspense and tension in the “cat and mouse” moments adds even more flavor to a sinfully delicious thriller. Though I’m not all that surprised that Pierce Brosnan performs well in the movie, Jackie Chan genuinely impressed me in what is probably his most serious role so far.
Though Chan still struggles a little with his accent, he shows some bona fide skill as a dramatic actor here. This is a role that not only demands the expected martial arts and stunts, but also requires him to legitimately portray a heartbroken man with nothing else to lose. As I stated above Brosnan mostly pleases as calculating politician with a dark past of his own. As former IRA officer Liam Hennessy, Brosnan occasionally lays on the Irish accent a bit thickly, but still gives a strong and dimensional performance as man whose past is starting to catch up with him. The Foreigner also stars Orla Brady, Michael McElhatton, Charlie Murphy, Rory Fleck Byrne, Ray Fearon, and Dermot Crowley. All of whom offer great performances in their roles.
So even though the premise sounds all too familiar, and it is, I still recommend The Foreigner as a solid piece of revenge cinema. The strong writing, the skillful direction and the performances by the cast, especially Jackie Chan, make this a highly watchable and enjoyable movie. I even liked this movie well enough that I would not mind seeing it lead to at least another installment. If Jackie Chan can still kick ass and dress it up with fine acting chops, and the filmmakers can promise audiences another compelling story, I will show up with great anticipation.