Jackie Chan has had essentially three phases of his acting career. With 134 films to his credit, it may seem as if the 63 year-old actor has been acting his way through action flicks for a long time and you wouldn’t be wrong. After establishing himself in the 70s and 80s, he became better-known in America through such comedic efforts as the Rush Hour trilogy, Shanghai Noon and the recent Karate Kid remake. However, with The Foreigner, Chan is entering a new phase where he is taking a slower and more serious approach to action filmmaking.
Chan stars as Quan Ngoc Minh, a restaurant owner who witnesses his young daughter killed in a bomb blast that is soon revealed to be the act of a new IRA (Irish Republican Army) group. The old rivalries between Ireland and England are to be reunited in what soon becomes a much more intricate plot than originally thought. Quan is devastated and wants to know the names of the killers and after visiting Irish government official Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan), it becomes apparent he may have to take matters into his own hands. He sets off a rather ingenious bomb at Hennessey’s office to send a message…he won’t stop until he gets the names.As it turns out, Hennessy may very well know more than he’s letting on. He is a former IRA member who actually served a prison sentence before becoming involved in politics. We are introduced to his character as he is sleeping with his mistress and his wife is still lamenting over the loss of her brother some 20 years earlier. Quan knows that Hennessy is the man with the answers and begins a one-man war against him and his never-ending supply of bodyguards. Unfortunately, this is one part of the plot that is a bit of a struggle to get passed.
Chan is 63 years old and his age factors into his character. Quan appears to be a simple man, moving slowly without an ounce of energy. Yet, as the movie progresses, he is making his way through stooge after stooge with relative ease. Now, this is marginally explained by a plot reveal into Quan’s past. However, it is a little hard to accept that he is still able to do much of what we are seeing on the screen. Now, Chan has slowed down quite a lot in recent years and I was indeed impressed by what I saw him do, which I believe was mostly his work with little to no special effects. However, it’s hard to accept in the context of the movie. Despite the question of whether or not Quan could really handle himself as well as he does, I was more impressed by Chan’s performance. After seeing him in so many comedic roles over the years, it was interesting to him never crack a smile once Quan’s daughter is killed. It’s his most serious performance to date, at least from what I’ve seen, and he does quite well in the role.Pierce Brosnan may be a few years removed from his days as James Bond but his performance here is also quite entertaining. His Irish accent and bearded appearance make for an interesting villain that is fun to watch. The supporting cast also does well but we are left with a series of plot twists that were too orchestrated and a meandering plot that takes way too long to work our way through.
At a nearly two hour running time, The Foreigner would have been better suited to another run through the editing room. A shorter running time would have helped the plot move along quicker and might have made some of the more obvious plot developments a little more shocking. Ultimately, it’s a slow-paced thriller that entertains as much as it can but seems more like it should have been a direct-to-video rental in the 80s rather than a big screen release in 2017. Chan and Brosnan elevate the harmless film but it will be quickly forgotten.