Don’t Underestimate ‘The Foreigner’

By: Paris Wong

Directed by Martin Campbell (‘Casino Royale,’ ‘The Mask/The Legend of Zorro,’ ‘Green Lantern’), ‘The Foreigner’ follows London businessman Quan Ngoc Minh (Jackie Chan) on his journey for vengeance after the last family he has left — his teenage daughter — is killed in a senseless act of politically charged terrorism.

He begins targeting Deputy Minister Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan), and in doing so, starts the clock on a two-hour long game of cat and mouse between Quan and the British government as he relentlessly pursues the names of those responsible for his daughter’s untimely death.

And if you were wondering, Jackie Chan’s definitely still got it.

When I was younger, Jackie Chan was my childhood hero. He was an amazing, untouchable, invincible superhero that looked like me, my friends and my family. I grew up on the ‘Rush Hour’ and ‘Shanghai’ movies and on ‘The Medallion’ and ‘The Tuxedo’ — so needless to say I was more than a little excited to see him in a different role than I’m used to.

That said, he surpassed every expectation I didn’t even know I had.

This is not a comedy, I repeat, this is not a comedy. Granted, there were a few chuckle-worthy moments, but I’ve never had to try not to cry faster than I did within the first five minutes of the film. Quan’s story is so tragic it’s gutting, and with the current state our world is in, the foundation for the audience’s emotional attachment to him is easy to lay down. This story is certainly painfully eye-opening and relevant to today, if nothing else. So many people have lost their loved ones in similar acts of violence, and to catch glimpses of it on a giant screen you can’t look away from is devastating.

Immediately you know to cheer for Chan (as if anyone needed to be told). Chan’s performance only solidifies it.

Even Brosnan as Hennessy, slimy as he seems, was a fascinating foil to Quan, and so much more layered than expected (although that Irish accent was really… something else). The twists and turns that take place between the two of them develop organically; you don’t see them coming as much as you sit back and realize, ‘oh, of course that’s what that scene was for.’

Everything slots perfectly into place, while still maintaining a level of suspense for what’s to come next. That score is haunting, and when you hear it, you know something’s about to go down. I also appreciated how the camera work wasn’t nauseatingly shaky as so many action films are, or ridiculously stuck on close-ups to try to communicate the emotion and the drama.

Then again, I imagine neither of those are necessary when you have a legend like Jackie Chan still doing his own stunts, and when the whole cast is so talented they tell you everything you need to know in one look, no matter their distance from the lens.

I did have one criticism. Being Chinese myself, every time the characters in the film spit out the words ‘China man’ (and yes, I know that’s the title of the novel this is based on) when referring to Quan made me want to roll my eyes into next year (come on, have we not all heard that one before?). But it was every time someone in the audience laughed at those words, or generally just laughed at anything Jackie Chan did — and trust me, they did — reminded me of the way people continue to underestimate Asians. If this were anyone else, like Liam Neeson, for example, in Chan’s role, I doubt anyone would have been giggling.

Granted, watching Chan’s 60-year-old Quan run circles around the British government can be funny in that this powerful institution is so incompetent, and yet they continue to underestimate Quan, believing they stand a chance (and who does, against the likes of Chan) — but I wouldn’t go so far as to say this is a laugh-out-loud movie. Even after all these years though, even as we all watched him nail a literal dead-serious role, people were still laughing at Chan like this was another one of his antics in a comedy.

That is, right up until things got real at the end.

This is action and drama at some of its finest; when the story starts to feel like it’s dragging, the perspective shifts somewhere else and balance is restored again. Brosnan plays his part to perfection, and the rest of the cast and crew seem to rally behind him. Most of all though, Chan is deserving of a little more than an honorary Oscar, if this — among others in his filmography — is any indication.

                                                       ‘The Foreigner’ is…
                                                             ★★★★☆

Call him what you will and laugh all you want; you don’t even have to understand the Irish accents to know: Jackie Chan is still the man.

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