THE FOREIGNER Review: 8 out of 10 (Chan goes Clancy)
THE FOREIGNER is a sort of action movie that feels like it got dusted off from the 90s, but in the best way possible. Based on a novel that came out in that same era, the film feels like one part Tom Clancy thriller and another action revenge pulp. Director Martin Campbell , who directed two of the best Bond films in GOLDENEYE and CASINO ROYALE offers up this well-paced movie that some may see as cliché on the surface. However, it is the complexity of the narrative and the performances running against type that makes this film one of the better movies of the fall.
Jackie Chan stars here as Quan--a grieving father whose daughter is killed in an IRA bombing attack in London. As he seeks answers to his daughter's death, he crosses paths with Liam Hennessy played by Pierce Brosnan. Hennessy is a former IRA member himself, who has become a British government official and is attempting to leverage both sides for political gain. When Quan's quest for the names of the bombers collides with Hennessy's attempts to quell violence and benefit from the government machinations, it doesn't take long for the situation to boil over. Though much of the plot of the IRA bombings, the film's own structure, and the mix of politics and action feel like 1997, the plot does a good bit of shorthand to make the film feel current and updated in a post 9/11 world.
One thing that isn't 90s is Jackie Chan here. This is not RUSH HOUR or SUPERCOP or SHANGHAI NOON Jackie Chan. This is a somber man who has declared war on those who have taken something from him. And apart from the opening five minutes, there is nary a smile on his face. Chan has had more serious roles in his work in Hong Kong, but most American audiences will see this as playing far off of type. And it is a welcomed performance of a grieving father with nothing to lose. Though some may immediately make comparisons to Liam Neeson's TAKEN, this movie has far more nuance and complexity to it. The plot itself is fairly complicated--again feeling like something from the Clancy era. Brosnan's Hennessy is a complicated man who has grown out of his past IRA violence into a man of politics, but can't outrun the ghosts of his past. When violence is on his doorstep, he struggles to seek the answers that Quan relentlessly asks of him. There are subplots of terrorism, family ties, and the current state of the IRA that makes an otherwise paint-by-numbers revenge movie feel bigger and more important.
THE FOREIGNER feels like something from the past that has been made relevant (again) in all respects. With strong direction and two stars who deliver outstanding performances against type, this is a must see for fans of action films and political thrillers.