The latest Jackie Chan flick is barely a Jackie Chan flick. I mean, he’s in it; but that’s pretty much the only way the film deserves to be called a Jackie Chan flick. Then again, I had heard that this would be the case and had seen the trailer, so I wasn’t expecting to see a Jackie Chan flick when I watched The Foreigner.
Liam Neeson + Jim Carrey = Jackie Chan?
A friend of mine has called this movie Jackie Chan’s Taken moment, yet for some reason I was thinking of it as his Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind moment. It really depends on how you conceive of him in your head. To me, he has always been a funny man first and an action star second. So that’s why it was difficult to seeing him being all stoic and grumpy.
It might seem like he is a bit too stoic at times. For instance, at the very beginning of the movie, we see Chan’s character Quan Ngoc Minh with his daughter Fan (Katie Leung, who was Cho Chang in the Harry Potter series). Even here, when things haven’t gone sour just yet, Quan feels a bit distant. Still, the love he has for his only daughter is palpable. And, as it turns out, there are very valid reasons for his distance.
Quan has lost his two elder daughters to nondescript Thai pirates, while he was trying to run away from his home country, for one reason or another. Later while in the UK, his wife has died while giving birth to Fan. So, at the beginning of the movie, Quan is a man on the verge of falling apart and the only thing that keeps him together is Fan.
So when Fan gets killed in a terrorist attack by the “Authentic IRA,” Quan decides to take action and revenge. He rather quickly turns into a man with a single purpose and the movie tries to drive that point home really hard. He keeps calling or visiting people (the police headquarters (, the office of the Irish deputy minister!) and everyone keeps remarking how patient he is.
Quan’s character is a weird mix of sympathetic and unlikeable. On the one hand, it is 100% understandable that he is seeking revenge. On the other hand, however, he takes things a bit too far. But, to be fair, in true Jackie Chan fashion, he never kills anyone who doesn’t deserve it.
Does IRA still make headlines these days?
There’s something to be said about Pierce Brosnan’s Liam Hennessy as well. A former IRA boy, Hennessy now is the Irish deputy minister and has dedicated himself to keeping the delicate peace between “the Brits” and his people. While it’s a very interesting political topic to talk about, I have to say that it doesn’t feel very relevant nowadays. Still, it’s refreshing to see a movie about terrorists who are not Middle Eastern.
At any rate, Hennessy is also a weird mix of sympathetic and unlikeable. I still have trouble putting my finger on what his true motivations were and I don’t want to write any spoilers, so I won’t say too much. All I can say is that there are points in the movie where it feels like he is the good guy and Quan is the bad guy.
To be honest, I actually enjoyed that ambiguity. It was nice to see what’s basically a very standard action movie have some morally gray zones to keep the audience on their toes. Everybody sucks, that’s just how it goes. It’s a bit cynical, but goes right along with the dark mood of the film.
Overall, The Foreigner is an enjoyable movie that doesn’t stand out too much. It has a pretty standard plot and features all the logic leaps that one might expect from an action movie. (Like, I get that Quan was trained and all, but how on Earth did he find Hennessy’s top secret hideout?) What it isn’t is a Jackie Chan flick. So, if you go in knowing all this, then you might actually enjoy this movie. Unless you don’t like generic action films. Then maybe go watch something else.