Chan, Brosnan Drive Smart “Foreigner”
There’s no question that Jackie Chan has lost a step or three. Yet, he’s able to do things no normal 63 year-old man should. You need no computer-generated effects in a Jackie Chan movie. He’s his own special effect.
None of the scenes from his latest, The Foreigner, will make the actor’s highlight reel, as this is a different sort of exercise. Yes, Chan does chop, kick and gauge his way through a scene or two but the things that buoy this smart, taut thriller are narrative switchbacks and well-choreographed action sequences. Going toe-to-toe with Chan is former James Bond Pierce Brosnan, who, like his co-star, brings a sense of gravitas to the screen that signals to viewers that they’re in good hands.
Chan is Quan an unassuming businessman in London whose life is shattered when a terrorist attack kills his daughter. A new faction of the IRA takes credit and the bereaved man becomes obsessed with tracking down those responsible. Dissatisfied with the efforts of the London police, Quan contacts Liam Hennessy (Brosnan) a government official who works as a liaison between England and Ireland and had previous ties with the IRA. Reluctantly taking a meeting with the bereaved man, the politician brushes him, a mistake the will soon come back to haunt him.
What follows is an escalating game of cat-and-mouse in which Quan begins to take Hennessy slowly apart, at first blackmailing him, then setting off small bombs at his workplace and home. Things deteriorate quickly, the Irishman brings in re-enforcements and then Quan really goes to work. The screenplay by David Marconi, an adaptation of a novel by Stephen Leather, contains one surprise after another as various characters throughout prove not to be who we think they are. Nearly everyone involved is haunted by their past, each hoping to right some wrong through radical action. Double crosses abound and characters end up working at cross purposes, all of which is done with intelligence and logic.
This is never more obvious than with the two principals, men who cannot let go of the past that’s turned them into the men they are. Brosnan is very good here as Hennessy slowly falls apart, as all that he’s come to depend upon falls away piece by piece. Ferocious strength gives way to frustrated bewilderment and the veteran actor delivers every moment with conviction.
Credit veteran director Martin Campbell (Goldeneye, Edge of Darkness) not only for the film’s brisk pace and strongly rendered action sequences, but the fact that the story’s characters and theme aren’t lost in the shuffle. He’s an old, capable hand at this sort of thing, much like Chan. These two, as well as Brosnan, take great pride in their work, never dreaming of simply phoning it in. This approach helps elevate The Foreigner above similar fare, making for a memorable thriller.