Written by Aaron Radcliff:
There seems to be a theme wanting to develop in Hollywood that started with the Taken franchise, where a beloved but aging actor is thrown into an action role to show they’ve still got what it takes while tossing a giant middle finger to ageism. We see that trend continue with action legend Jackie Chan’s latest outing, The Foreigner.
I feel as though I made Chan and, by extension, Liam Neeson sound like crippled fogeys whose only physical capabilities are shambling to their door to yell at the children of the neighborhood for coming too close to their lawn. But we see in this film that isn’t the case. The 63 year-old Chan still performs his own stunts and performs his action sequences incredibly well for someone who has taken as many knocks as him.
But let’s get into the meat of all this: The plot. The story centers around a Chinese immigrant living in London, Ngoc Minh Quan, as he tries to track down the people responsible for a bombing that took the life of his daughter, his only remaining child. His investigation leads him to Liam Hennessey (Pierce Brosnan), a former IRA member who now works for the British government. When Hennessey fails to provide the information Quan wants, the grieving father calls on his Special Forces training and begins his own reign of terror. Meanwhile, Hennessey tries to track down the bombers for his own political gain.
Despite what the marketing showed, this is much more of a thriller rather than an action movie, which isn’t a problem. The real problem is that this is a film with two very interesting and worthwhile stories trying to be told at the same time. On one hand, you have a tale of revenge which, when being told, is a great action drama. On the other hand, you have a stirring political thriller, debating the lengths people will go to achieve their goals and how worthwhile the actions undertaken by terrorist organizations are in achieving said goals.
Each of those would make for a great individual film, but at the same time, each story takes focus and time away from the other and hurts the overall experience. So let’s touch on each aspect.
ACTION: While the events depicted in the trailer are about the extent of the action, the overall tale of a father’s revenge tour is well-paced and acted. Quan is clearly a good man driven to violence because it’s the only way that true justice can be carried out. He’s a man who does what he does, not because he wants to, but because he has to.
THRILLER: While the action side of the story is more fun, the thriller aspect is by far the most engaging part of the whole story. Hennessey’s plans haven’t gone as they were supposed to and thus brings him, much like Quan, back fully into a life he’s tried to leave behind. Unlike Quan, Hennessey is not so removed from his past life and tries to go about his past and his current actions in a different way in order to instigate the changes he wants, yet his hands continue to get dirty. The story, meanwhile, manages to stay complex enough to keep you engaged and interested but is also simple enough to be easy to follow.
Overall, The Foreigner is an enjoyable time but stumbles over trying to tell equally interesting stories at the same time. If you expect a pure Jackie Chan-style action flick, you’ll only partially get your wish. The fight sequences liven the story up enough to keep things fun, but the true story should’ve been the Brosnan-centered thriller.
Score: 6.5 out of 10
Photo via STXfilms