By John Liu
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
The Foreigner is based on the action thriller novel “The Chinaman,” released in 1992 and written by Stephen Leather. The film was directed by Martin Campbell and written by David Marconi. Here is a quick warning. If you are interested in seeing this movie already, avoid reading any further and just go see it. My review has a few plot reveals, just like the movie trailer gave away plot points that I would have rather not known about ahead of time. I thought it would have made the movie more intriguing without being “spoiled.”
The movie starts with Ngoc Minh Quan (Jackie Chan) taking his daughter, Fan (Katie Leung), to buy a prom dress. Suddenly, a bomb detonates and kills Fan. A rogue Irish Republican Army (IRA) cell takes responsibility for the bombings. Quan approaches Scotland Yard officer Richard Bromley for answers, but he is unable to provide any information about the bombings. Quan discovers Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan) was a former leader of the Provisional IRA, and concludes Liam should have an idea of who was behind the bombings. He goes off the grid to try and coerce Liam to provide the names of the people who might be responsible for his daughter’s death. We immediately get a sense Quan is no ordinary citizen when he see him making a homemade bomb to intimidate Liam. The movie reveals he’s actually a retired Vietnam War special forces operator who lost two daughters while escaping from Cambodia. Fan is his third daughter. Throughout the movie, Quan is a constant thorn in Liam’s side.
The first thing I noticed was Quan’s daughter. She looks familiar, but couldn’t put my finger on it while watching the movie. Apparently, that’s Katie Leung, who played Cho Chong in the Harry Potter series. It is too bad she has such a small role in this movie. As I stated earlier, the movie trailers reveal a bit too much. The current trend for movie trailers is to reveal interesting plot details that are so far along the story that some people may consider them actual spoilers. It would have been much more interesting not knowing anything about Brosnan’s role going into this movie. Even though the movie is called the Foreigner, it should be called “The IRA bombings and the Foreigner,” as the IRA plot centering around Brosnan had just as much screen time. Obviously the marketing team went for The Foreigner with Jackie Chan on the movie poster because everyone was itching for another great Chan film. Given The Chinaman was written in 1992, the IRA terrorism attacks did not seem too timely to me. When the first trailer was released, there was a controversy over Jackie Chan playing a Vietnamese citizen, but the story quickly explains he is Chinese-Vietnamese. I would give this film an extra half star if I had watched the film knowing nothing ahead of time.
Chan’s take on a man who has lost everything is fantastic. I don’t think he smiled a single time, which is the complete opposite of his normal campy action movies like Rush Hour.
In that series, Chan dispatches each armed thug effortlessly with eloquence and grace.
That’s not the case in The Foreigner. Chan is definitely human and gets beat up quite a bit.
The constant back and forth between Quan and Liam holds a lot of tension. There are a number of plot twists regarding the IRA and Quan’s motives, but the movie is never too hard to follow like some political thrillers. I recommend this movie if you are a Jackie Chan and Pierce Brosnan fan.
Here’s my own movie review plot twist! I had read that some of Jackie’s action scenes were cut from the U.S. version. The final fight scene is actually five minutes longer in the China version and addressed a lot of criticism about the lack of Jackie. I’ll definitely catch the unedited version in the future.
John can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.