Saturday, October 21, 2017

The Foreigner: A Solid Action Film

Movie Review: The Foreigner (2017)
Version: Paid in-theater viewing

Ever since Jackie Chan "went Hollywood" his movie roles, at least the ones seen in the West, have been more slapstick comedy built around kung fun fighting. It hasn't been until recently that his roles have become more serious, as in The Karate Kid and Dragon Blade, save for his voice-over work. The third serious role Chan is taken on and just released in theaters is The Foreigner. He admitted in a U.S. late-night network interview it has been his plan to move in that direction, to become a serious actor.

In The Foreigner, Chan plays Quan Ngoc Minh, a humble London restaurant owner who loses his one last family member, his daughter, to a terrorist bombing as she enters a dress shop to prepare for a school dance. Filled with remorse, with the memories of the loss of the rest of the rest of his family to senseless political attack, Quan becomes obsessed with seeking revenge on whoever planted this bomb. His foe becomes a member of British Parliament from Belfast, Liam Hennessy, played by Pierce Brosnan. Quan is sure Hennessy knows who they are because of his past ties to the IRA (Irish Republian Army), and he seeks him out for help. But Hennessy hasn't a clue. He declares he hasn't been in the game for decades but is instead working to maintain the peace brokered over 19 years. Quan isn't convinced, and the movie becomes a cat and mouse game of Quan setting dangerous traps for Hennessy to convince him to give him the names of the bombers. Armed with a hefty security team, Hennessy attempts to stay ahead of Quan, but to no effect -- Quan is always a kung-fu step ahead of them. Quan is obsessed at getting the names, whatever the personal or professional cost to Hennessy.

It has always been a hallmark of Chan movies to get at least one fairly top name to play either the bad guy or one of the good guys along side him in his films, and so it is with The Foreigner. Brosnan is good as the Belfast antagonist opposite Chan, although his Northern Irish accent is a bit thin. Having played James Bond and Remington Steele probably helped established his chops as a spy-type, and she commands the screen. Having played the heavily grieving father in The Karate Kid prepared Chan for his role as well, although I thought he was more effective in Karate, perhaps even Oscar worthy. But they make a fine dueling pair in this action-filled drama which allows Brosnan to spar and Chan to kick-punch for which they are famous. Chan is getting older, so there isn't nearly enough kick-punch and stunt work as a lifelong Chan fan would like, but I'll take what I can get.

There are plenty of chase scenes and explosions, too. It's interesting to note that a double-decker bus explosion on a bridge over the River Thames was so realistic that nearby onlookers thought it was an actual terrorist bombing during shooting, and the production crew had to shut down briefly to calm nerves. Chan, producer of the film, takes his art seriously.

While I still liked The Karate Kid better, The Foreigner was still a good, solid film and worthy of any Jackie Chan or action-film fan. If I rated films, I'd give it four swift kung-fu knuckle punches out of five. 

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