The Foreigner, directed by Martin Campbell, offers one of the most interesting and meaningful performances from Jackie Chan in quite some time… perhaps ever. So it’s then a real shame that the film puts the majority of its focus on other characters and a plot that get’s more bloated, the longer it goes on. Jackie’s performance and his character had me hooked almost instantly, so it leaves me confused as to the decision behind not making him more of the film’s focus. Let’s explore what Jackie Chan achieves in this film and if it’s one worth checking out.
Fuelled by vengeance, Quan Ngoc Minh – played by Jackie Chan – seeks the names of the terrorists that planted a bomb that then resulted in the death of his daughter. He is underestimated at all times, but secrets from his past prove him to be a formidable foe. The people who can give him the answers he’s looking for, will soon realise this.
Jackie Chan’s performance in this film is perhaps unlike anything I’ve seen from the actor. Rather than scene-after-scene of wonderfully choreographed action scenes (though this film does have a few) we get a more subdued, more character driven performance from him. The first time he appears on-screen there’s instantly something different about his presence. His sunken, tiered eyes – the hunched back of a man who has lived a long, work-filled life – simply the way he is presented in a frame; where he almost seems to be being swallowed up by the world around him. It’s not what we’re use to from the actor and it was a performance that I was continually transfixed by.
While his physical demeanour communicates much to us about the overall state of the character, it is his personal motivations that show what he is truly capable of, and paint the picture of a man who has led a very unexpected life, compared to the weak, tiered looking man we see on-screen. The death of his daughter relights what he was once capable of and gives us a melding of one of Jackie’s Chan’s greatest strengths as an actor (impeccable fight choreography), with one that I didn’t realise he was capable of. Jackie takes us to an emotionally powerful place with his subtle performance, and really does deliver something that stands out and demands you pay attention. To put it bluntly: I was surprised at how nuanced and engaging his performance was.
And while Jackie is tugging on the emotional threads of the heart, he also gets to do what he does best and deliver some thrilling action sequences. Now, there aren’t many, as that isn’t really the aim of the film, but what we do get is surprisingly well done for a film that is western based. Jackie Chan, his stunt team and their incredible talents have largely been let down by Hollywood. So it’s nice to see a film made outside of China that delivers some well-shot, well-executed fights – nothing spectacular, but good.
But… here’s the big problem: Jackie Chan and his outstanding performance is not given anywhere near enough screen time. There are one-or-two significant portions of the film where Jackie seems to disappear, and it is the films plot and the characters within that plot that take up most of the focus. A politically driven story, and strangely, the antagonists of the film take up much of the film.
The story is certainly full, in terms of the level of content it has, but it wasn’t ever what I was invested in. Backroom deals, politically motivated backstabbing, and phone calls filled with wordy jargon, certainly kept the film moving and feeling like it was doing something; it’s just that it’s never interesting enough to warrant the attention it gets. I also found it to get more bloated and confusing as it went on. I began to struggle to remember who was aligned with who and what their part was in the larger plot. It all left me feeling… frustrated.
I also found it strange that the main antagonist of the film was given the majority of the screen time. Liam Hennessey – played by Pierce Brosnan – is who for some reason leads the film – despite him being a very unlikeable character with a history of unforgivable actions. Brosnan delivers a decent performance, and he certainly has a presence that makes him somewhat intimidating, but it was still really confusing as to why the character was given so much of the film. I did not care about him or the people around him and was actively rooting against them. Meanwhile the person I did care about, was missing from the film and not being given the attention he deserved.
But even though it was frustrating and confusing, it wasn’t ever bad. I wasn’t bored by what I was watching; it all moves at an engaging pace and does wrap things up in a satisfying way. It’s just that it’s not the film I was expecting/wanting.
So while I was of course disappointed by the overall focus of the film, I still found it to be worth it, because of what Jackie Chan does in this film, and the fact that it is reasonably engaging (plot-wise). Most of all though, experiencing Jackie’s work in this film went into increasing my respect for the man and continuing my love for his work.
With that in mind, I’m going to recommend, The Foreigner. I think this film is worth giving a shot, it’s in no way bad and kept me reasonably entertained throughout. So check out The Foreigner, and who knows, maybe it will surprise you.
I’d love to know what you thought of my review, so please leave any feedback you have, in the comments section down below. If you’re interested, you can follow both my blog and my Twitter – @GavinsRamblings. But I’ll finish up now and end by saying thank you for taking the time to read my review. I hope you have a fantastic day!