Jackie Chan versus James Bond. Battle of the century, yo!
It’s about time that this movie came out. I was starting to wonder if this movie was just a hoax trailer to make us think that Chan was back in action, but thankfully, dreams do come true and patience is a virtue… though, seriously, why can’t “hurry the f**k up” be a virtue.
The story looks like it’s about a man whose daughter is killed in a terrorist bombing. The government agent investigating the attack refuses to disclose the identity of the bombers, so the man goes on a revenge trip all on his own.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have the living legend, Jackie Chan (THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE , and upcoming films RUSH HOUR 4 and SHANGHAI DAWN, both have no announced release date) and Pierce Brosnan (THE ONLY LIVING BOY IN NEW YORK , MAMMA MIA! , and the upcoming MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN ). In support, we have Katie Leung, known for T2 TRAINSPOTTING (2017), and Harry Potters THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 2 (2011) and THE GOBLET OF FIRE (2005).
Now for the crew. Directing, we have Martin Campbell, known for GREEN LANTERN (2011), and 007s CASINO ROYALE (2006), and GOLDENEYE (1995). Penning the screenplay is David Marconi, known for LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD (2007) and ENEMY OF THE STATE (1998). Composing the score is Cliff Martinez, known for WAR DOGS (2016), THE LINCOLN LAWYER (2011), and SOLARIS (2002). Finally, the cinematographer is David Tattersall, known for DEATH NOTE (2017), NEXT (2007), and CON AIR (1997).
Overall, I think this is going to be awesome. I mean, Jackie Chan! How can you go wrong?!
This is my honest opinion of: THE FOREIGNER
Quan (Jackie Chan) is a restaurant owner living in London. His daughter Fan (Katie Leung) is about to buy a dress, but almost immediately after dropping her off, a bomb goes off, taking the lives of several people, including Fan. The group claiming responsibility calls themselves the “Authentic IRA.” Desperate for the identities of the men responsible, he calls the government several times, but can’t get an answer, especially from a former IRA member now career government agent, Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan). When it becomes clear that Quan won’t get answers the polite way, he starts making threats for the names.
And… it’s not as good as I’d have hoped. Having said that, it was a pretty sweet ride. Or at least, parts of it were. Sounds all over the map, doesn’t it? Well, that’s kind of the movie.
Good stuff first. Chan is, as per usual, too awesome for words. Quan is presented like a grieving father. An almost frail old man who persists in finding answers, specifically the names of those responsible for his daughter’s death. This is actually something of a question mark that I have about the movie. I know Chan is in his sixties, but there are those moments where he stands up from sitting in a chair, and he looks slow. Was this deliberate? Because he’s still doing his own stunts, fast during the chase and fight scenes. I guess it would make sense, so he can maximize the damage he causes while being underestimated. Or maybe he was just really sore that day of shooting and it showed on screen accidentally. Either way, bad ass. I especially love this scene after Quan’s daughter’s death where he’s just in her room, looking around at her things. He doesn’t say a word, but what really got me was him holding this teddy bear of hers. The final shot of the scene is him sitting on her bed, contemplating his next move while grieving, and there’s this really subtle moment where as he holds on to the bear’s leg, it starts to slip out of his grasp. My immediate thought was that the bear would plummet to the ground, but it never does. The scene eventually cuts to the next one. Maybe I’m reading too into it, but I swear this was Quan’s breaking point, symbolic of him trying to move on, but can’t let go, signifying the next choice to exact revenge. Maybe I’m the only one who saw something in that moment, but I really liked it.
As a result, all of Chan’s action scenes are really fun too. The fight scene on the roof of his hide-out and setting off his traps in the woods when Liam’s goons go hunting for him. I’m still cringing at the guy that stepped into that hole with protruding nails. Oh! Oh, and the fight between Quan and Sean (Rory Fleck Byrne) was a whole lot of fun! What do you think goes through an actor or stuntman’s mind when he realizes he’s going to get in a fight with Jackie Chan? Do you think they even bothers with signing a contract? “Wait, Jackie Chan is going to kick my ass? I’ll do it for free!”
I know this is an adaptation of a novel, but I feel like there’s some missed opportunity here. Like I said in my opening line, it’s Jackie Chan versus James Bond! Why is this not cooler than it sounds?! Nearly every confrontation the two men have with each other is all about talking. Seriously, Brosnan doesn’t throw a single punch Chan’s way. I know, I know, that’s the character. He’s not a fighter anymore, but rather a power hungry and politically ambitious asshole. At his core, he’s a coward. But damn it, why would you put a former Bond in that role?! This should have been an extravaganza of kung fu versus gun fu!
The movie is also unfocused, or at least, the focus isn’t where it should be. I couldn’t say if this was an action movie with political intrigue, or a political thriller with some action. Actually, now that I’ve written it out, it’s an action movie with political intrigue. Something along the lines of the Bourne films. But here’s why the Bourne films work as action-political thrillers as opposed to this. The politics are kept simple. Bourne was assigned to kill a political figure who was a threat to America, but failed in his assignment. The “how” and “why” this figure was a threat is barely explored because the movie knew that the focus was on Jason Bourne and rediscovering his identity after succumbing to retrograde amnesia. Here, the focus should be on Quan and him getting revenge on the terrorists who killed his daughter, but far too much screen time is on the politics. Hell, the movie has the balls to go a solid fifteen to twenty minutes without Chan’s face on screen. Um… fuck you too, movie! I want to see Quan beat a fucker up with a lamp and kick the shit out of bitches a third of his age with his bare hands! I don’t care what the Authentic IRA’s motivations are! They detonated a bomb killing a dozen people, one of them being Quan’s daughter! Motivations and directed anger established! Awe hell, wouldn’t it have been even cooler if Chan and Brosnan teamed up at the end, storming the terrorist hide-out and kicking ass together?! GAH!!! But because we don’t get anything that exciting, the movie isn’t always engaging. Brosnan certainly tries to make his character work with a solid performance from him, but a political underling trying to maintain control of his power isn’t very interesting, and because this movie thinks that it is, there’s a disconnect between it and the audience.
Other problems include some questionable character choices, like when a henchman hears suspicious noises, he doesn’t radio in for more back-up than the one guy within ear shot of his voice. Weird direction, like when the barn is blown up by Quan and Mary (Orla Brady) has almost zero reaction to how close that explosion was to her. Stuff like that sticks out too.
Objectively speaking, this movie probably isn’t very good, and it definitely isn’t very interesting. But so long as Chan is on screen kicking ass and the bad guys have befuddled expressions on how this aged martial artist can get the better of them no matter how amped up the security gets, then the movie has enough excitement to carry you through a single viewing. I won’t really argue anyone who says this movie isn’t good, but I’ll still be on the side of those that enjoyed themselves just enough. If you’re a fan of Chan and Brosnan, check this out as a matinee screening, or a strong recommendation as a rental if it’s not in theaters anymore. Keep your expectations low though. It’s not a brawl of epic proportions between the two stars. But there’s just enough action to keep you watching and knowing that Jackie Chan is here to stay.
My honest rating for THE FOREIGNER: a strong 3/5