In my decades of being a Jackie Chan enthusiast, I never thought I’d see him in an action-enhanced drama fighting against a terrorist group known as “The Authentic IRA.” But you know what? His film The Foreigner isn’t half bad, even when it gets a little kooky.
From director Martin Campbell (Casino Royale, Green Lantern) and based on the Stephen Leather novel “The Chinaman” (adapted by David Marconi), The Foreigner features Chan as Quan Ngoc Minh, a reserved restaurant owner in London whose daughter is killed in a terrorist bombing while she’s buying a prom dress.
We later find out that Quan’s road to London (he is currently a citizen) was a terrible one that resulted in the death of many members of his family, leaving only his daughter. So when this new IRA faction claims responsibility for the attack in an effort to disrupt the peace accord, Quan (who it turns out was also Special Forces trained in the U.S.—not sure how that works, but whatever) attempts to contact Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brsonan), the Irish representative in the British government and a former IRA member himself, looking for the names of the bombers, which he claims he doesn’t know.
Completely stripped of personality and humor, Chan actually does a solid job as the stoic, grieving father, focused on revenge and uncovering the truth, even if he has to threaten Hennessy and his family to get what he’s looking for. Chan has always been the athletic comedian, willing to risk life and limb to entertain his fans. The Foreigner isn’t a Jackie Chan movie (sorry folks, no outtakes), but he still gets a handful of chances to kick a little ass and get creative with the stunts. But his Quan is also planting bombs, setting traps in the woods, and just generally outthinking those he is trying to scare and/or kill.
If you like your Chan movies a little more lighthearted, there are dozens of those available to you on any number of platforms and formats. And of course there are many other characters in The Foreigner. But when your stars are Chan and a former James Bond, the rest is just background noise. These morally questionable versions of the two leads were interesting enough to keep me curious where this odd tale was going to land.
There are a few twists and turns, double crosses and misdirections, but really it’s a simple story of political intrigue blended with military-style action, and a higher emotional content than either of those genres normally feature. Not a great movie, but still highly watchable.